I know, most of you don’t have marlin lying around the house to make tacos de marlin. But this recipe works with any smoked fish, and it’s amazing, so walk with me a moment and I’ll show you.
Marlin tacos are a big deal along the Pacific coast of Mexico, and I’ve eaten tons of them all over Baja. Like a lot of Mexican dishes, there’s plenty of room for variation, and this recipe is an amalgam of the many I’ve eaten in places like Ensenada, La Paz and Cabo San Lucas, plus written recipes.
The fundamental ingredient in tacos de marlin is smoked marlin. I have a recipe for smoked marlin here, using the easier-to-find swordfish. If you read that recipe, you’ll see that smoked marlin is common in Baja. It’s primarily obtained when sport anglers kill a marlin — when the fish swallows a hook or fights so hard it can’t be released.
Smoked yellowtail or tuna are typical alternatives in Mexico, and literally any smoked fish will work with this recipe. Some excellent choices would be smoked shad, smoked whitefish, smoked salmon, smoked lake trout, smoked mullet or catfish, or smoked bluefish or mackerel.
Tacos de marlin are usually a sort of quesadilla, a folded-over taco cemented with melty cheese, either queso Chihuahua or queso Oaxaca. I’ve seen marlin tacos done on flour tortillas, but corn is the norm.
The filling is essentially a salpicon, a mish-mash of the marlin, roasted green chiles, tomatoes, onions and garlic, and herbs, cooked in a little butter.
You can make the filling up to a day or two ahead, then heat corn tortillas to make them pliable, set some shredded cheese down, top with the filling, fold over and sear on a comal or griddle until you get a little char. Sometimes the tortillas break, but since you have a layer of melted cheese, it’s all good.
Obviously marlin tacos are best hot off the comal, but I’ve eaten them at room temperature and they were still great.
And if you’re looking for another idea for smoked fish tacos, I have a different recipe for smoked salmon tacos.
- 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
- 1 cup minced white onion
- 3 jalapenos, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 poblano or Anaheim chiles, roasted, seeded and chopped roughly
- 4 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
- 1 pound smoked marlin, or other fish, flaked out
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 12 corn tortillas
- 1/2 pound grated Oaxaca cheese, or mozzarella or Chihuahua cheese
- Heat the butter in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and jalapenos and cook, stirring often, until the onions brown a little, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, roasted chiles, tomatoes, smoked fish and the oregano and stir to combine. Taste for salt and add some if needed. Drop the heat to low.
- Heat up corn tortillas on a comal or griddle and keep them in a tortillero or wrap them in a kitchen towel to keep them warm.
- To build the tacos, spread the cheese across a tortilla, add some filling and fold over. Set the taco on the hot comal or griddle and press down with a spatula until the cheese melts. Cook each side until you get a little char. Repeat with the remaining tacos.