the moveable feasts

Panko-Crusted Fish Tacos with Spicy Chile Mayonnaise and Cabbage Slaw

with 15 comments

panko-crusted fish tacos with cabbage slaw and spicy mayonnaise

I was sitting here with a blank screen of a blog post, when I turned to my mom asking her what I should write about. Without averting her eyes from the TV program she was watching—The Big Bang Theory, a program we have both shamelessly fallen for—she immediately said, “Um maybe that it’s the best thing you’ve ever made? And that the sauce is to die for?”

There’s a saying in Mexico that “hunger makes the best sauce,” and I think it is partly this sauce that made my mom almost worship the fish tacos I made for dinner this week. She came home ravenous, and when one comes home in that state, it doesn’t matter whether she has New Year’s resolutions or not to make panko-crusted fish tacos with a spicy ancho chile mayonnaise and a crunchy cabbage slaw wrapped up in a warm flour tortilla sound and taste like the best thing.

put a lot on, it's worth it

But, to give her some credit, we all loved them. I kind of had a vision of how I thought the “perfect” fish taco would be, and this is what I came up with: the flavoring of the fish was kept simple, but I wanted a crunchy texture. I baked the filleted fish in a panko-coating, just because I thought it would be healthier than deep-frying it. (And obviously easier—still haven’t gotten over my fear of deep-frying yet.) I wanted a lot of the flavor to come from the sauce, and with ancho chiles and a whole lot of fat, I think the pink chile mayonnaise from Tyler Florence did the job. Seriously, I want to smother it on everything. And finally, I wanted a crunchy cabbage slaw, dressed with a tart vinaigrette that counter-balanced the fat of the chile mayonnaise. What resulted was something I’d like to think we all found pretty perfect. I think it may in fact deserve the title as The Fish Taco of My Dreams.

Eating these fish tacos made me wonder why I don’t make them more often, let alone order them at restaurants every once in awhile. As much as I love hearty stews and carb-heavy meals during the wintertime, I feel like getting a taste of tropical flavors is something that is really doing me some good. Something about the flavors of the lime, mango, and chile that just does something to a person when there’s freezing temperatures outside.

panko-crusted fish tacos
that pink chile mayonnaise is the best

One Year Ago: Mom’s Bran Muffins

Panko-Crusted Fish Tacos 
Serves 4

Do not assemble the tacos until right before they’re going to be eaten; the crunch of the baked fish fades the longer it sits soaking in the chile mayonnaise and cabbage slaw. 

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups panko-style bread crumbs
1 pound flaky, mild, white fish, like rockfish, tilapia, or mahi mahi, patted dry and cut into wide approximately 1 1/2 by 3 inches

flour tortillas, warmed
spicy chile mayonnaise (recipe below)
cabbage slaw (recipe below)
limes, to garnish
1 mango, peeled and sliced into strips
1/2 avocado, peeled and sliced into strips

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

In a wide, shallow bowl or dish, whisk to combine the flour, paprika, and a liberal amount of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. In another wide dish, add the eggs. In a third dish, add the panko. Place them side-by-side, with the flour dish first and the panko dish last, to create a fish breading station. Taking one fish stick at a time, cover in flour, tap off excess; dip into the egg, shake off excess; and then cover in the panko, making sure to use your finger to press the panko bread crumbs onto the fish. Place on the prepared baking sheet and continue the process of breading the rest of the fish. Once all are prepared and placed on the baking sheet, bake in the preheated oven for 12-14 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and the fish is flaky white on the inside.

To assemble the fish tacos, take a warm flour tortilla, add a couple of the panko-crusted fish, top with a few good tablespoons of the pink spicy chile mayo, and add as much cabbage slaw, lime juice, and mango slices to suit your tastes.

Spicy Chile Mayonnaise
Adapted from Tyler Florence
Makes 1 cup
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 chipotle chilis in adobo, plus 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a blender, combine all ingredients and blend on a high speed until smooth, consistent, and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Cabbage Slaw

After about an hour or two this slaw becomes slouchy and not as crisp as you’d like. I made it before the fish tacos so it could sit to soak up the flavors, but I used it as soon as the tacos were done.

1/2 head Napa or Savoy cabbage
1 jalepeno, seeded and minced
1/2 red onion, sliced paper thin
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

Combine the cabbage, jalapeno, red onion and cilantro in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the lime juice and vinegar together. In a slow, steady stream, add in the olive oil while whisking constantly. Season well with salt and pepper. Add in to the cabbage mixture and toss to combine. Let sit for about a half hour to let the flavors combine.

Written by Amy

January 11, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Posted in Poultry, Meat and Seafood

Tagged with ,

15 Responses

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  1. Big Bang Theory is definitely up there on my list of guilty pleasures! And these tacos look so good, I think that chile mayo would make a great dressing for the slaw, too.

    • Haha, guilty pleasure?! I have no shame, I always ask everyone if they watch it. :)


      January 13, 2013 at 9:07 pm

  2. Ah, fish tacos. I think they might be my favourite kind, though it’s hard to choose between those and ones filled with pork belly. I’ve never thought of making them at home, though! I guess it never really occurs to me to prepare fish at home. These tacos seem like just the baby-step I need before jumping into something like cooking a whole fish.

    Oh, and great looking photos, Amy.

    P.S. The physics grad students I know deny vigourously that they’re anything like the guys on Big Bang Theory. I’m not sure if it helps their case.


    January 11, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    • Ohhh I’m not sure I could pick a favorite taco. Wrapping meaty, fatty things up in a tortilla with delicious toppings is just pure wonder. I need to jump into cooking a whole fish! I think I’ve still got a few more years in me before I take that plunge though…

      Haha! Denial is so telling, isn’t it? ;)


      January 13, 2013 at 9:10 pm

  3. Oh my goodness! I have never in my entire life thought about eating fish tacos! Your pictures make me want to eat some right now! Awesome job!

    Nerd With Taste

    January 12, 2013 at 12:28 am

  4. Love this!!! Looks great! yum!

    Alice Choi (@HipFoodieMom1)

    January 12, 2013 at 9:12 am

  5. Fish tacos are my default at the taqueria but for some reason I never make them at home. I love your version! That savoy cabbage in particular looks so fresh and crisp. :)


    January 12, 2013 at 3:33 pm

  6. These look so good! I don’t make tacos enough, seriously, bookmarked to make this week.


    January 13, 2013 at 11:34 am

  7. oh my goodness – these DO sound perfect Amy!! When you described the perfect fish taco just then I literally found myself nodding along. And that mayo sounds to die for… xxx

    Em (Wine and Butter)

    January 13, 2013 at 1:30 pm

  8. Amy, you always make the most delectable food! It’s awesome that you made your version of the perfect fish taco. I think mine would look exactly the same, oven-baked, panko-crusted, chile mayonnaise, mango(!), and all.


    January 13, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    • Yes, can’t forget the mango! I love when there’s sour and tart balanced by sweet.


      January 13, 2013 at 9:11 pm

  9. I made these tacos tonight with rockfish. LOVE that spicy pink dressing! The fish came out so light and flaky. Wonderful!


    January 14, 2013 at 8:46 pm

  10. Try them with corn tortillas, so good.


    August 31, 2013 at 5:07 pm

  11. Thanks for this recipe! Each iof the components is so delicious. I used homemade flour tortillas as well. The sauce is just out of this world. I’m not really a fish taco fan but this recipe has converted me. I used red cabbage for the slaw and pineapple instead of mango because it’s what I had on hand and it came out great. I also use a cast iron skillet to cook the fish in the oven at 450 degrees for 2-4 min depending on the size of the piece if rock fish.


    January 20, 2015 at 5:36 am

  12. People tell me I am a great cook,…. just reading and taking down your recipe made my mouth water!!! Thank you for this wonderful recipe! I am going to make it this week. GREAT and WONDERFUL imagination!!!
    Thank you!

    Barbara Whited

    April 11, 2015 at 4:33 pm

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