My very first blog post! Creating my own website has been on my bucket list for quite some time. I have always loved to write, since being a kid. Lately, the most non-work-related writing I’ve been doing was on Instagram, in the form of short captions on my food photos, hoping that someone, somewhere will read and relate on some level. However, those captions simply cannot adequately capture all of the nuanced details of the motivations, frustrations, and context in my life behind each meal that I post. Nor can I post full recipes. After several people on Instagram requested the recipe for the shrimp tacos posted on my story feed this weekend, I finally took the plunge. I will probably write an introduction about myself at some point, but today I just wanted to write about these tacos. It’s taco Tuesday.
(Addendum: I did write about myself here.)
As many of you who follow me on IG could tell, I have been on a making-stuff-from-scratch kick lately. A few months ago, I made my first bread by hand, and this weekend I tried my hand at both my first pasta and corn tortillas! The fact that scratch-made food always tastes better alone is enough reason to do it for me. But it is actually so much more than that. There’s a kind of gratification and empowerment in cutting out the “middle man” in this world of food industrialization that purchasing mass-produced, chemically-preserved products just cannot realize.
About these tacos: I must admit that (warning: unpopular opinion ahead) for most of my life, I did not like tacos … that is, until I made my own. Like many foods, my only exposure to them was through restaurants, not homemade. Sadly, my very first exposure to tacos was at Taco Bell at age 10, which was both my first and last time eating at a Taco Bell. That was my view on tacos for many years to come. I have had better tacos at restaurants since, but none of them made tacos become a food that I would ever crave again.
About a year ago while on a plastic surgery elective in Hamilton, Ontario, I ate these shrimp tacos with mango salsa at a popular fish and chips restaurant. It was then that I realized that tacos could be great. Being South Korean, I am a sucker for sweet and spicy combo profiles, so I decided to make my own tacos using the contrast between the sweet-and-tangy mango salsa and the fiery El Diablo shrimp. Oh my goodness. I’ve made tacos before, but these were, to date, the best tacos I ever had.
This recipe has four parts: the tortillas, the guacamole, the mango salsa, and the Devil’s shrimp. To be honest, I’m not sure what qualifies food to be in the possessive “Devil’s” but pretty sure it has to be spicy. Also, it sounds much tastier than just “Shrimp Tacos.” I have written a step-by-step with photographs for just the tortillas component. I advise cooking the shrimp last to eat them warm. Keep scrolling for the complete recipe.
Disclaimer: the portions stated in the recipes are approximate. Personally, I prefer tacos overflowing with goodies.
Homemade Corn Tortillas
Ever since watching Samin Nosrat’s Netflix series Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, in which she befriends a lady who makes corn tortillas by hand day-in and day-out, I’ve been playing in my head various scenarios of how I was going to use my first homemade corn tortillas. I used this recipe from Mexican Please, and made some modifications along the way. You only need three ingredients: masa harina, water, and salt. I purchased my first bag of masa harina at Loblaws for just over $6.
They are so simple to make and I will never be buying store-bought tortillas again! You just mix the three ingredients, give it a good massage with your hands, roll into little balls, squash flat, then cook briefly on a skillet.
When the masa harina is mixed with the water, it will look clumpy like this:
Then, massage with your hands to incorporate. Get all up in there like it’s your business. Should look something like this:
Divide the dough and make golf balls using your palms. I’ve never played golf so getting the approximate size required more cognitive effort than I’d like to admit.
I don’t have a tortilla press, so I used a flat-bottomed pan and used my body weight to squash the damn thing. Quite therapeutic actually. Oh, be sure to place the ball between two pieces of plastic to prevent a giant mess (or so I presume from what I’ve read). I used two sandwich ziplock bags and worked perfectly. This is what it looked like after peeling away the top plastic layer:
I modified the method from the Mexican Please recipe by doing the rapid flip technique that I’ve been reading about on other blogs. Basically, I flipped the tortillas every 10 to 15 seconds (rather than 1 to 2 minutes per side) and this ensured that I didn’t burn one side, like I did the first batch. Those little brown/black spots made me unreasonably happy!
Full Recipe: Devil’s Shrimp Tacos with Mango Salsa
Makes 12-14 tortillas, 4″ in diameter
2 cups masa harina
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup lukewarm water (divided into 1 cup and 1/2 cup)
1. Heat a cast iron skillet to medium. You may need to set it higher/lower depending on your stove and your skillet.
2. Mix the masa harina, the salt, and 1 cup of the water in a large bowl and stir using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. When the water is absorbed, add the 1/2 cup of water and continue to stir until absorbed again.
3. Ditch the spoon/spatula and get nice and intimate with this dough. Give it a nice massage, like you’re on a date, picking up the bits left at the bottom and coaxing them into the dough ball.
4. Once you have one large dough ball, divide it into golfball-sized chunks and roll between your palms to make golf balls.
5. Working in batches, place a ziplock bag on the counter, then the golf ball, then another ziplock bag on top. Use a tortilla press if you’ve got one. If not, fear not. Find a pot or a baking dish with a flat bottom and press it down with all you’ve got. Let out all the anger built inside of you from dealing with so many assholes this week. Imagine the dough ball is the asshole.
6. Place the tortilla on the hot skillet and flip after about 10 seconds. Continue to flip every 10 to 15 seconds until little brown spots are forming, then remove from skillet.
Makes enough for 6-8 tacos
1 large ripe mango, medium diced
1 jalapeno, finely diced (leave seeds in if you are masochistic like me)
1/4 red pepper, finely diced
juice of 1/2 lime
juice of 1/4 lemon
3 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Can be made in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge (if so, store the cilantro separately and stir in just before serving).
The Most Basic Guacamole
Makes enough for 6-8 tacos
2 ripe medium avocados
juice of 1/2 lime
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Use a fork to mash the shit out of the avocado, until lime juice is well-incorporated but still has a chunky texture where you can see the different colours of the avocado.
Makes enough for 6-8 tacos
400 g black tiger shrimp, deveined and peeled, patted dry with paper towel
1 clove garlic, crushed or finely minced
1/4 tsp cayenne powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp Spanish sweet smoked paprika
1 tsp dried thyme (tip: crush and rub in between your fingers to release more aroma from within)
1/4 tsp salt
A good grind of cracked pepper
1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Get your hands in there and massage all of the Devil’s seasoning into the fleshy prawns.
2. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium. Then add a good glug of olive oil.
3. Spread the shrimp to fry without overcrowding in the skillet. You may need to work in batches. Approximately 3 minutes per side.
Assemble to your desired proportions. Enjoy the best damn shrimp tacos you’ve ever had.