I used to live in Pacific Beach, a neighborhood in San Diego characterized by its huge population of drunk college bros. Being a mature and worldly 25 years old, I stuck to the more chilled-out northern part of town and took smug satisfaction in my retreat from the chaos.
We had own special chaos in North PB, namely in the form of old-timer bars that attracted the more grizzled locals. Our favorite was Latitudes, otherwise known as "Lotta Dudes." Despite all the dudes, I'll never forget a vicious, uncommonly fit old lady yelling at my dad for using her favorite pool cue.
The reason I kept going back to Latitudes was for the fish tacos. Or rather, the hot sauce that they served with the fish tacos. It's a little brand out of Hawaii called Wao Nahele, nearly impossible to find in stores. The bar guarded that stuff with an iron fist. It has a unique soy-sweet flavor that I've never found in another hot sauce.
After years of experimentation, I've finally created a passable replica. It's not perfect... but it's close. The secret ingredient? Ketchup.
So today we're making a basic but delicious fish taco, salsa, crema, and some fake Wao Nahele as the real star of the plate.
Lattitudes Hawaiian Fish Tacos
Prep Time: 30 min Cook Time: 15 min Total Time: 45 min
3 Tbs olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 lb white fish fillets, like cod, mahi mahi or tilapia
8-12 corn tortillas
4 oz / 2 cups / 113 g shredded cabbage (pre-shredded cole slaw mix is great)
4 plum tomatoes, diced finely
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1 chile pepper, deseeded and diced finely
1 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 Tbs Sriracha
1 Tbs Tapatio or Cholula hot sauce
3 Tbs honey
1 Tbs ketchup
1 Tbs soy sauce
1.5 Tbs sweet chili sauce
1/2 cup / 118 mL plain yogurt or sour cream
juice from 1/2 a lime
Pinch of salt
Marinate the fish: Combine juice of 2 limes, 2 Tbs olive oil, garlic, cumin, coriander and about 1/2 tsp salt. Stir in a good grind of fresh pepper. Pour into a shallow baking dish or large plastic bag and add fish, turning to coat. Refrigerate while you make the salsa and hot sauce.
Make the salsa: Finely dice tomatoes, onions and chile pepper. Combine along with juice of 1/2 a lime, chopped cilantro and about 1/2 tsp of salt and a grind of pepper. Taste and add more lime juice and/or salt if necessary. Set aside.
Make the hot sauce: Combine all the hot sauce ingredients and stir to combine. Set aside.
Make the crema: Mix together yogurt or sour cream, juice of 1/2 a lime and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Cook the tacos: Heat about 1 Tbs oil in a skillet, or heat up a grill pan over medium-high heat. Remove fish from the marinade and pat dry. Cook fish for about 2-3 minutes/side until flaky.
Warm tortillas - either directly over your gas range or grill pan, or place on a plate, cover with damp paper towel, and microwave for about a minute.
To serve, pile some cabbage and salsa in a tortilla. Top with fish and a drizzle of crema and hot sauce.