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Nosh fish tacos are topped with a cumin crema in his food truck in Rapid City. The tacos are made with beer-battered cod topped with lime-cilantro slaw, cumin crema, Pico di Gallo and jack cheese.

Journal file

Ten years ago while living in Hawaii, Chris Dale discovered a local favorite known simply as fish tacos. Now, the dish is as ubiquitous and it is popular across America and in the Black Hills.

As owner of Nosh Mobile Eatery, Dale serves up the Nosh version of the now commonplace hand-held taco dish to the Black Hills diners who crave a tasty combo with a side of crispy cheese.

“In Hawaii, you can find variations of fish tacos at every restaurant,” Dale said. “Here in Rapid City, I was craving tacos, and I like to serve authentic flavors, so having a fish taco on the food truck menu just made sense.”

The fish taco, popular street food in just about every major metropolitan area these days, typically showcases Mexican flavors. Fish tacos vary with the chef, and as such present the perfect palette for endless combinations of ingredients and toppings.

“Putting fish or seafood in a Mexican-style dish is generally challenging,” Dale said.

He suggests that any type of fresh, flaky white fish lends a substantial, yet accommodating, buttery flavor to any taco.

“Battered cod fillet provides an authentic, Baja taste without being fancy. A non-breaded fish would be served in Hawaii as a higher end dish,” he said.

At Nosh, the fish is placed in a soft flour tortilla wrap. “Flour tortillas offer a neutral flavor, and they often hold up better in the hand,” Dale said.

Next, Dale adds a “cheese crispy” – shredded Monterey Jack cheese melted into a circle in a pan and then left to simmer until bubbly – which is unique to Nosh.

“We can actually make a denser ‘cheese crispy’ to use as the outer shell, for a gluten-free fish taco option,” he said.

He tops the taco with a finely shredded cabbage slaw, pico de gallo, and cumin crema, “to bring all the flavors together.”

“Some people love it the way it is, but because of the blend of flavors, if you take one flavor away, it just makes the dish different,” Dale said. “With a fish taco, it’s super easy to accommodate different preferences.”

At Barbacoa’s Burritos and Wraps in Spearfish, Robert Williamson serves a fish taco with poached cod. “We invented a blend of seasonings that we add to the fish, and poach them together on the stove top,” he said.

Barbacoa’s special orders a thicker corn tortilla for their fish taco. “People are about 50/50 on their choice of flour or corn,” Williamson said. “Our corn tortillas are made especially for tacos, and we steam them soft so they stay together but aren’t stiff.”

Topping the fish, Williamson recommends feta cheese, Barbacoa’s signature pickled red cabbage and cilantro-lime dressing.

“Some people add salsas, or house-style rice and black beans,” he said. “We pretty much make fish tacos to order, and they will taste great.”

Williamson said that Barbacoa’s added fish tacos to their menu last year, and they are gaining in popularity.

“In general, I think the Hills give off a healthy vibe, and people around here are looking for nutritious food, as fresh as possible, which they will get in choosing a fish taco,” he said.

Whatever flavor combination, Dale says fish tacos are worth a taste. “If you like tacos at all, I think fish tacos are one of those things everybody needs to try.”

Here is a fish taco recipe you can try at home, courtesy of celebrity chef Bobby Flay, an avid backer of the fish taco trend.

Yield: 8 servings

Fish filling:

1 lb. white flaky fish, such as mahi mahi or roata

¼ c. canola oil

1 lime, juiced

1 tbsp. ancho chili powder

1 jalapeno, coarsely chopped

¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro leaves

8 flour tortillas

Garnish:

Shredded white cabbage

Hot sauce

Crema or sour cream

Thinly sliced red onion

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Thinly sliced green onion

Chopped cilantro leaves

Pureed Tomato Salsa, recipe follows

Tacos:

Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Place fish in a medium size dish. Whisk together the oil, lime juice, ancho, jalapeno, and cilantro and pour over the fish. Let marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove the fish from the marinade place onto a hot grill, flesh side down. Grill the fish for 4 minutes on the first side and then flip for 30 seconds and remove. Let rest for 5 minutes then flake the fish with a fork.

Place the tortillas on the grill and grill for 20 seconds. Divide the fish among the tortillas and garnish with any or all of the garnishes.

Pureed Tomato Salsa:

2 tbsp. peanut oil

1 small red onion, coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped

1 serrano chile

1 jalapeno, sliced

1 tbsp. chipotle hot sauce

1 tbs. Mexican oregano

¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat grill or use side burners of the grill. Heat oil in medium saucepan, add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add tomatoes, serrano and jalapeno and cook until tomatoes are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Puree the mixture with a hand-held immersion blender until smooth and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Add the hot sauce, oregano, cilantro and lime juice and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

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