After taking the Culinary Techniques course at the International Culinary Center, I have been having serious food cravings any meal that is not doused in a rich sauce or steeped in butter or that has the classic French flavor profile. Looking at the jar of kimchi in my refrigerator from the demo last week with Kheedim of Mama Oh’s Premium Kimchee, my brain decided it was time to try to reverse-engineer the Fish Tacos from ABV (by the owners of Vinyl Wines and Earl’s Beer and Cheese). Since its opening in January, ABV has become a popular gathering spot for Upper-Upper East Side folks (i.e., those living in the 90s and above) due to its extensive beverage list and unique dishes like the Tartare Pizza and Charred Strawberry Sorbet.
I was completely hooked from the very first bite I had of this dish with all the different layers of tastes and textures. A slab of delicate, flaky fish surrounded by a hot, crisp crust lies on a base of spicy-sour kimchi and cool, creamy guacamole all held together by a soft, corn tortilla. It is topped with a last-minute squeeze of lime, an extra sprinkle of cilantro and a few crumbles of queso fresco to give it an extra pop of freshness and tanginess. This was my initial attempt at making this recipe, and I think I managed to capture most of the elements that appear in the dish at the restaurant.
I’ve marked this down as a Weeknight Supper option, as, with a jar of kimchi on hand, it really doesn’t take that long to pull this meal together. I know that the ideal spot for eating this is on a beach, cold beverage in hand and ocean breezes wafting by. Hopefully, that scenario is in your near future, especially with how hot it has been lately, but if it isn’t, at least these tacos might help keep things cool and refreshing.
Beer-Batter Fried Fish Tacos with Kimchi and Guacamole
Prep Time: 30-45 minutes
Serving Size: 4 appetizer portions (one taco per person) or 2 meal-sized portions (two tacos per person)
1/2 cup Kimchi, chopped
1/2 Jalapeno pepper, minced
1 Tbsp White Onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp Cilantro, finely chopped
Zest of 1 Lime
Juice of 1 Lime
1 pinch ground Cumin
1 pinch ground Coriander
1 pinch Black Pepper
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup Flour
1 pinch Salt
1/2 cup Beer (doesn’t have to be the highest quality)
1 whole Red Snapper (or other white fish), about 1 1/2 to 2 pounds OR
1 to 1 1/2 pounds Red Snapper fillets
Corn or Sunflower oil for frying
4 large White Corn Tortillas (I used ones from Hot Bread Kitchen)
12-16 whole Cilantro leaves
4 Lime wedges
Place the chopped Kimchi in a serving bowl and set it aside until ready to put together the tacos.
Cut open the avocados and remove the pit. Scoop out the green interior and place it in a bowl. Mash it with a fork until there are no big chunks. This version of guacamole should be fairly smooth in texture. Add chopped jalapeno, onion, cilantro, and lime zest. Stir to combine. Pour in lime juice, cumin, coriander, pepper, and salt and mix together thoroughly. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until ready to put together tacos.
Put 1/2 cup flour into a shallow bowl with a pinch of salt. While stirring with a whisk, pour in 1/2 cup of beer and mix together until the ingredients are all combined completely and there are no lumps of flour. It should resemble the batter for thin pancakes. Let this sit for a few minutes while preparing the fish.
I chose to use red snapper for this dish, but any white fish that won’t fall apart when fried would work. I went by the guidelines at the fish counter at Whole Foods, truthfully, as I still find it confusing to figure out which is a “good fish” to buy versus a “bad fish,” environmentally speaking. Feeling adventurous based upon my exploits in culinary class, I decided to buy a whole one and practice on it. Needless to say, it is not really possible to take pictures while cutting up a fish, so I’ll have to let you imagine that I did much neater job of this task than was the actual reality.
In the end, I had several large pieces. To test the recipe, I cut a couple of them into long strips and left the others as they were. I’m still not sure which size I prefer for this dish. They both fry up really quickly and seem to hold onto their texture while maintaining a nicely crisp exterior coating.
Put 1/2 inch of Canola or Sunflower oil into a heavy frying pan and turn it to a medium-high heat. This is a great excuse to pull out the cast iron skillet as it will hold the heat better than other pans, which is why it is often recommended in fried chicken recipes. While the oil is heating, prepare the fish. Pour the other 1/2 cup flour onto a plate or into a shallow bowl. Cover each piece of fish in the flour and shake off the excess. Dip each piece of fish into the beer batter. Shake off the excess and put it on a clean plate or cutting board while you check to see if the oil has reached the right temperature for frying.
Drop a bit of batter into the oil. If it sizzles immediately and begins to turn golden on contact, it is ready. Gently place several pieces of fish in the pan, making sure not to crowd them together as they need room to cook. Fry about 3-4 minutes on the first side, until golden, turn it over and cook another 3 minutes on the second side. Remove fish from the pan and dry on paper towel. You may have to cook the fish in a few batches.
Set up the ingredients and begin to construct your tacos. Begin by slathering some guacamole on a corn tortilla base. Then spoon some of the chopped kimchi. Gently lay a piece of the fried fish on top of the kimchi. Sprinkle a few whole cilantro leaves plus a couple of large pinches of crumbled queso freso on top of the whole thing. Serve on a large plate, accompanied by lime wedges. These should be eaten while the fish is still warm to hot so that you get the right balance of hot and cold, crunchy and sour, and creamy and tangy.