Cinco de Mayo es muy circa. Yeah, that’s right. This is what 3 years of Spanish in high school got me. Well…that, and “dos cervezas por favor”. And one thing we can all pretty much agree upon. Me gusta los tacos!
Those who know me well and have frequented The Shavens Tiki Bar for dinner and drinks (don’t search this on Google Maps…it’s what we call our lanai), this fish taco recipe is legendary. I actually feel a little awkward posting this in conjunction with Cinco de Mayo as its roots come not from Mexico, but the little Hawaiian Island of Maui. Specifically, the “Fresh Fish Tacos” from Leilani’s in Ka’anapali.
I discovered these culinary wonders while producing the Big Break Ka’anapali series for Golf Channel back in 2008. Up ’till then, I had never had, nor entertained the idea of, consuming a fish taco. I’m a New England guy. There’s not a deep taco tradition up there. Seafood, yes. Tacos, not so much. Your typical options were beef, chicken or pork (all good options!). Now, I’m sure this has changed since my formative years, but growing up, the “fish taco” was a decidedly Cali creation. And that was nothin’ but wicked namby pamby gaaaahbage.
Time, age and worldliness has a way of adjusting one’s outlook on things. And let me tell ya, these tacos from Leilani’s were a life changer. I mean, the whole crew would eat these things for 2 weeks straight and continue to crave ’em upon returning to the mainland. Hell, when my wife and I went to Hawaii the year before we got married, we made a point to go to Leilani’s for the fish tacos.
Since Hawaii isn’t necessarily a readily-accessible destination for us common folk, I needed to figure out how to replicate this back in the good ol’ FLA. Which I did. Sorta. I would come close, but they were never quite the same. It was from these initial copycat efforts, though, where I began to sample with different flavor/ingredient combos until I came up with a taco that supplants Leilani’s as THE best fish tacos. Period. Continue reading