|Authentic Style Shrimp Tacos|
We have recently been eating at a local taco place, Cilantro Tacos, for lunch. The owner is Mexican-American and is from Southern California. His tacos are nothing like “Taco Night.” Shredded cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream are not offered as toppings. No one asks, “Do you want hard or soft shells?’ Because these tacos are authentic. The shells are soft, corn tortillas that are small enough to be held in your hand. The only toppings are chopped onion and fresh cilantro. Then why eat them? Because they are delicious. What makes real tacos special is the variety of meats available. You can get everything, but ground beef. Braised beef, carnitas (stewed and then fried beef), tongue, grilled shrimp, fish, steak, chicken are all cooked with different spices and piled into freshly made tortillas. I am in love.
While not claiming that these are authentic, I did take inspiration from my new favorite lunch spot. If you don’t like cilantro then fresh, flat-leaf parsley is a good sub. You can shake the jalapeno strips in the flour to make them even crispier. For side dishes, I served red pintos cooked with bacon fat, onions, chopped jalapeño and a little oregano and of course white rice. Get at least 2 kinds of salsa. I used Frontera Tomatillo and Frontera Mexicana Medium. These are excellent with a good cold beer.
Serves: 10 handheld tacos (3-4 people probably)
Time: Active time 30 minutes; Cook: 15 Minutes, tacos in 35 minutes
Hardware: A cutting board and knives, measuring spoons and cups, a heavy skillet (for frying), a slotted metal spoon (or a spider/skimmer), an oil thermometer, 1-gallon plastic bag, a paper towel lined, oven safe bowl, a bowl of very cold water, paper towels, and food prep gloves
- 1-pound large shrimp (21-25 count) You can buy them cleaned without tails
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons chili powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 cup flour
- ¼ cup corn starch
- 2 large jalapeño peppers
- Small Spanish onion (6 ounces, 1 cup)
- A bunch of fresh cilantro
- 10 white corn, soft-shell 4-inch tortillas
- 3 limes
- Oil for frying
- Your favorite salsa (not taco sauce)
1. Chop the onion and place it in the cold bowl of water. This helps take the bite out of it. Wash and chop the cilantro and set aside. Slice the limes. Wearing the gloves, slice the jalapeños into long thin strips.
2. Rinse and pat the shrimp dry. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons chili powder and a generous amount of salt on the shrimp.
3. Place the flour and corn starch in the Ziploc with the remaining seasonings and a generous pinch of salt. Shake the bag. Add the shrimp to the Ziploc bag and shake like crazy. Set aside.
4. Add enough oil to fill the heavy skillet up half way. Heat it on medium high. When the temperature reaches 375°, the pan is ready.
5. Drop the jalapeño strips into the oil and allow them to crisp up. Remove and save to use as a topping.
6. Shake as much flour as you can from the shrimp. Fry them for 3-5 minutes or until cooked through. Don’t crowd the shrimp. You may need to cook them in batches. Use the thermometer to keep the temperature between 370° and 375°. Using the slotted spoon, move them from the oil to the paper towel lined bowl. You can keep them warm by placing the bowl in the oven on the lowest setting.
7. Drain the onion, completely.
8. To prepare the tacos, heat the tortillas according to package directions. Fill each tortilla with some shrimp, onions and cilantro. Squeeze on lime and then top with French fried jalapeños. Offer your guests salsa.