Tacos are a dime a dozen in Southern California. That is, until you eat a really, really good one. Like the kind of taco that you talk about for months - heck, even years later. The kind of taco that you make a point to tell all of your friends about. The kind of taco that...changes your life forever. You're all probably reading this with the natural assumption that I'm about to tell you about a taco I happily devoured at a restaurant recently. But you are wrong. While some SoCal taco joint reviews are definitely in the future for Dash of Les, I'm actually here to tell you about the best tuna tacos I ever ate which also happen to be...the tuna tacos I made...
Excuse my grammar...but I'm purposely "stealing" the title from the drool-worthy Food Network show. Because in all honesty, my tuna tacos should totally be featured on the next episode of "Best Thing I Ever Ate: Fish Tacos." I'm pretty certain that you're all about to agree with me on that notion, too.
I'm downright obsessed with Ahi tuna tacos. So much so, that I order them almost every time I spot them on a menu. The smooth texture of the rare tuna paired with the crunch of the corn tortilla...it's such a heavenly combination. Dressed with tangy pickled veggies, buttery avocado, and a delightful creamy, and sometimes sweet sauce...tuna tacos are one of a kind. With tons of variations that boast equally luscious flavors, it's been hard to name a favorite. Until of course, I made my own.
Maybe it was the sense of accomplishment that has me singing my own praises. Or maybe...just maybe, I really did create the very best Ahi Tuna Taco in the world. Either way, I would take these beauties to any fish taco competition with all the confidence in the world. They're East meets West with Asian and Mexican fusion. They're loaded with flavor and texture diversity. And they're absolutely knock your socks off, delicious.
Ahi Tuna Tacos with Pickled Cabbage, Avocado, and Sriracha-Ginger Crema
6 organic white corn tortillas
10-12 ounces Sashimi grade Ahi (or Yellowtail) Tuna
1/2 cup white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon ground ginger
3 teaspoons cumin
zest from two limes
salt and pepper
6 tablespoons grape seed or canola oil, divided
1/2 fresh jalapeño, thinly sliced (optional)
1 ripe Haas avocado
For the Pickled Cabbage:
1 cup purple cabbage, shredded
1 cup napa cabbage, shredded
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup Rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon Sriracha
For the Crema:
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 teaspoons Sriracha (or more, but taste-test first)
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1-2 teaspoons salt
1) Thirty minutes before you begin preparing the tacos, get your pickled cabbage ready. Place the shredded cabbage and cilantro in a medium mixing bowl. Then, in a small saucepan, heat the rice vinegar, sugar, water, and sriracha until it's just lightly boiling. Remove from heat and pour over the cabbage and cilantro mixture. Toss so that everything is evenly coated. FYI: I will sporadically toss the cabbage mixture as I prepare the rest of the meal. Set aside.
2) Get the crema ready. Combine all of the ingredients into a small bowl. Taste test for more salt and/or more Sriracha if you want it extra spicy. Set aside.
3) Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. While the oven is pre-heating, begin seasoning the tuna. Begin by patting it down with paper towels until it's no longer "damp." Then, rub the lime zest, ground ginger, cumin, and salt and pepper on all sides. Finally, coat the tuna in the sesame seeds, firmly pressing down on the seeds so they stay put.
4) Pour 1/4 cup oil into a small ramekin and grab a cooking brush (or use your hands if you don't have one). Brush each tortilla with a little bit of oil on both sides. Then, once the oven has reached 350 degrees, very carefully place the tortillas, one at a time, over 2 oven "rods" on the center rack. Make sure that there is an even amount of tortilla hanging off each side. In just 5 minutes, they'll be crisped up into crunchy (and sturdy) taco shells. (This is the healthier and easier way - as opposed to deep frying them)
5) Using a large non-stick pan, bring 2 tablespoons oil to medium-high heat. When sizzling (test with a single sesame seed), place the tuna in the pan. Sear for 2 minutes on each side and remove from pan. Set on a cutting board and let rest.
6) When taco shells have been baking for 5 minutes, remove from the oven with tongs, being careful not to break them.
7) Cut open the avocado, remove the seed, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Then, slice into 1/4 inch thick "wedges." Now, cut the tuna against the grain, into 1/4 inch thick slices.
8) Begin assembling the tacos. Put about 1/4 cup pickled cabbage into each taco along with a wedge of avocado. Top with a slice or two of tuna (feel free to cut tuna into smaller pieces) and then spoon some of the Sriracha crema on top. Top with fresh jalapeño, extra Sriracha, and some fresh lime juice if you'd like.
***Makes 3 servings.