Friday, April 4, 2014

Week 12 - Street Food

When I think of street food, the first things that come to mind are tacos and hot dogs. When Week 12 of the 52 week challenge rolled around, with its theme of street food, I knew I had to make tacos (even if it took us a couple of weeks to find the time to make them). They're the perfect street food. We decided to celebrate the street food theme by having Taco Tuesday with some fish tacos and a side of esquites.

The final product - flash photography doesn't usually make it on the blog but my phone memory was full thanks to the search for Pokemon on Google Maps


We love fish tacos. But there was no way we would be able to get a perfectly fried piece of fish like you can from fish taco specialists like Ricky's Fish Tacos. (Would love to have one of those right now.) We could have tried pan-frying or baking, but since I was also making slaw and esquites for this meal, I decided semi-homemade was the way to go for the fish. It was much simpler and cheaper to just bake some fish sticks. We picked up this Trident "Ultimate Fish Stick" bag the last time we were at Costco and they are really good (actual fish, no fillers, not fishy at all). We got them on sale so it was only $1.50 for the amount of fish we ate that night ($2 if not on sale). Fish sticks are a really affordable way to go to make fish tacos.

Fish sticks from Costco and tortillas from Trader Joe's

For tortillas, we heated up some corn and wheat tortillas from Trader Joe's ($1 for 4 tortillas). They were thick and sturdy enough that you didn't have to double up the tortilla and had good corn flavor on their own. We quickly warmed them up in the microwave. Warming them in a griddle would probably be better, but the microwave took less than a minute. We would buy these again.


Although I planned to use fish sticks for the tacos instead of dredging and pan-frying/baking the fish myself, I still wanted to make the slaw from scratch. I decided to use this recipe from the Kitchn, which looked simple and tasty.


- 10 oz shredded green cabbage ($1.69)
- 2 small carrots, grated ($0.30)
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced ($0.40)
- 1 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced ($0.43)
- 3 small garlic cloves, minced ($0.10)
- juice of 1/2 of 1 lime ($0.25)
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise ($0.12)
- honey to taste (about 1/2-1 tsp) ($0.15)
- salt and pepper to taste ($0.10)


The first two paragraphs of the recipe have the slaw instructions and I followed them pretty much as written. The first step was to sprinkle the shredded cabbage with salt, let it drain for 15 minutes, and then squeeze the cabbage of its excess liquid. I did that, but there was no excess liquid. I don't know if it's just how the cabbage is prepared and packaged at Trader Joe's, but I don't think this step was necessary. I had never done it for any other slaw before, and don't think I will in the future.

The slaw is pretty easy to make. Put the cabbage in a large bowl with the grated carrot, thinly sliced scallions and minced jalapeños, and combine. Stir together the minced garlic, lime juice and mayonnaise to make a dressing, taste it, add the honey and salt and pepper to taste. Then pour it over the cabbage mix and stir it all together. Simple. The prep took some time (as usual) but the process was simple.


We really liked the slaw. It was good on its own and the perfect match for the fish taco to balance it out. It was creamy but not very heavy, and there was a nice citrus flavor from the lime. Even though it included one jalapeño pepper, it didn't have much heat at all. The ingredient amounts above made more than the amount in the bowl but I liked it so much that I snacked on it a little bit while prepping the rest of dinner. We would make this again, especially for fish tacos.


I've had this esquites recipe from Serious Eats saved to my computer for months, but just never found an opportunity to put it on a meal plan before. If you're unfamiliar with esquites, they're similar to elotes but the corn is in a cup/bowl instead of on the cob. Charred corn, crema/mayo, cheese and herbs are such an amazing combination. We love heading to Red Hook during the summer and grabbing some elotes from the food trucks. But since we don't have a grill, esquites are our best make-at-home option.


The main modifications we made to the original recipe were to (1) substitute cans of corn for the fresh corn and (2) use feta cheese instead of cotija cheese. It's not corn season here, but even if it were, the Trader Joe's canned corn is an inexpensive and easy replacement. Not all canned corn can be substituted for fresh corn, but the Trader Joe's canned corn absolutely works. It is the best tasting canned corn I've ever had. As for the cheese, I really wanted to use cotija but the only cotija cheese I found were large blocks of cheese for $6+ and I don't use it frequently enough (yet) to make that worth it. The feta worked just fine as a replacement. Not exactly the same, but it worked.

- 2 tbsp canola oil ($0.10)
- 2 cans (18 oz drained) of corn ($0.89 x 2)
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise ($0.12)
- 2 oz (approximately) feta cheese, finely crumbled ($1)
- 1/2 cup scallion greens, finely sliced ($0.45)
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped ($0.85)
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped ($0.65)
- 4 small garlic cloves, minced ($0.12)
- juice of 1/2 of 1 lime ($0.25)
- chili powder to taste ($0.10)
- salt, for corn and to taste ($0.05)
- pepper to taste ($0.05)


I had doubts about whether the charring would work in our non-stick skillet but the recipe instructions worked great. You start by heating the oil in the skillet until it's shimmering, add the corn and season it with salt. Then, after tossing it briefly, you just let it sit for 2 minutes to char. Stir and wait another 2 minutes. Over and over until the corn is well charred, and then you transfer to a large bowl. It took about 8-10 minutes. Their advice to use a splatter guard was good. By the time the charring was done, the entire kitchen smelled like popcorn.

Once the corn is done and in the bowl, add the mayonnaise, cheese, scallions, cilantro, jalapeños, garlic, lime juice and chili powder. Stir it all around and then fix the seasonings to taste. And try not to "taste" too much of it before you serve it to everyone else.


The esquites were delicious. This is definitely in the running for one of my favorite recipes of the year so far. I had no idea we could get this flavor at home just by charring corn like this in a skillet. It isn't the same as corn on the cob roasted on a grill, but it's so good. As A said when we talked about the dish, we just inhaled it, which is probably the best compliment we could give it. We loved it. I think I could eat this weekly. It's that good.


Our taco bar for this Taco Tuesday wasn't as extensive as the last one we had (was that really almost half a year ago?!) and it was a little monochromatic, but it was delicious. The cost breakdown came out to:

- Tortillas: $1
- Fish sticks: $1.50
- Quick cabbage slaw: $3.54
- Cilantro garnish for tacos: $0.10
- Esquites: $5.52

The total came out to $11.66, with small amounts of slaw and esquites left over for another day. Going out for good fish tacos and grabbing 4 of them would probably cost at least $10, so making them ourselves with a large bowl of esquites was such a bargain for Taco Tuesdays. It won't keep us from going back for great fish tacos to places like RFT but it'll do for tacos at home.

We loved both the fish tacos and the esquites. I can't stop thinking about the esquites and may have to make that again soon. Planning another Taco Tuesday for next week, so hopefully this can start to become an ongoing tradition! There can never be too many tacos.

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