It is hugely gratifying to know that even though Mantia’s has been closed for over five years, there are folks who still remember it warmly. Not so long ago, I ran into one of our most loyal guests. She lamented the loss of the fish tacos we served every Wednesday. And shortly afterwards, along came another with the same sentiments. Then just recently, I got an email from a third, wanting to know if I’d ever given out the fish taco recipe. No, I hadn’t, but why not now?
Our menu listed it as “Grilled Fish Tacos with Piña Colada Cole Slaw, Sliced Roma Tomato and Chipotle Aioli.” We used soft flour tortillas at Mantia’s, but I like the crunchy corn ones. Either way, use the taco-sized tortillas (6- or 7-inch) rather than bigger burrito or quesadilla size. They are easier to eat without getting too messy.
We made the aioli using pureed canned chipotle chiles. However, one can, even the small size, would make enough aioli for the whole neighborhood. Now I use chipotle Tabasco sauce instead when making these at home. If you want to use canned chipotles, you can freeze the leftover chiles in an ice cube tray. You might find that you like the aioli well enough to use on sandwiches and, thinned with a little white wine vinegar, as a salad dressing.
The cole slaw dressing recipe makes enough for four bags of cole slaw mix. Any remaining dressing will keep for weeks in the fridge. This slaw is good served with almost any kind of BBQ flavored grilled meat, or try it instead of plain mayonnaise in chicken salad.
We used tilapia filets, which are tasty, and are thin enough to cook quickly without drying out. But it’s a farm-raised fish, and I’ve gotten a little wary of most farm-raised fish. I went to see Ted the Fish Man at the Paradise Seafood Truck and he recommended grouper. I cut the filets into ½-inch thick slices and it was perfect.
With football season here, this is a great dish to serve at half-time for hungry fans of your favorite team. You can make the cole slaw and aioli earlier. Then you can cook the fish filets quickly by your preferred method. Easiest for a crowd would be to run them under the broiler. The best flavor would come from cooking the filets in a grill basket over medium heat, but if it’s too hot or too cold or too wet to fire up the grill, I would cook them in a skillet or on a stove-top griddle.
Mantia’s Fish TacosServings: 8 tacos
1 8.5-ounce cream of coconut (found in the drink mixer aisle)1 6- to 7-ounce can crushed pineapple, undrained
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 14-ounce bag cole slaw mix (the kind with carrots in it)
Chipotle Aioli:¾ cup mayonnaise
Juice and finely grated zest on one lemon
1 to 2 tablespoons chipotle Tabasco, or to taste (see note)
To finish:1 ¼ pound firm mild-flavored white fish filet, no more than ½-inch thick
2 to 3 tablespoons packaged taco seasoning
8 taco-sized corn or flour tortilla
2 ripe Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 bunch cilantro, leaves removed from stems
1. Make the cole slaw. In a blender or food processor, combine the cream of coconut, pineapple, mayonnaise and mustard. Puree until smooth. Mix one-fourth of the dressing with the bag of cole slaw mix. Mix well and chill for at least an hour. Reserve the rest of the dressing for another time.
2. Make the chipotle aioli: whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice and zest and chipotle Tabasco (or pureed chipotle chiles). Chill at least an hour.
3. When ready to serve, dust the fish filets with the taco seasoning. Cook by your preferred method. Spread a heaping tablespoon of the aioli on the tortilla or taco shell. Add the fish and top with cole slaw. Tuck in a slice or two of tomato. Serve immediately, passing the cilantro for each person to add to taste.
NOTE: If you prefer to use pureed canned chipotle chiles in the aioli, start with two teaspoons and add more to taste.