Dueling Dishes: Battle Fish Taco

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Dave Lieberman
A great fish taco is a thing of beauty: fried fish (yes, it must be fried!) topped with raw, shredded cabbage, crema (thin Mexican sour cream), chunky salsa and a squeeze of lime on corn tortillas. The first time I had them ("Fish tacos? Seriously?") was when I was working in the San Gabriel Valley, home to the wonderful chain called El Taco Nazo. I was hooked instantly, both by the tacos and to the amazing fried yellow chiles kept covered on a foil-wrapped platter.

Back then, all the stores, which are mostly located in the SGV and the Gateway Cities of southern LA County, were called El Taco Nazo; differences of opinion and some infighting resulted in part of the family splitting off and converting some of the stores to the name Señor Baja. The recipes have diverged in the intervening years, enough so that it's time to settle the matter of which taco reigns supreme by ordering a fish taco, a shrimp taco, and chiles güeritos from each place.

El Taco Nazo

El Taco Nazo's only OC branch, barely half a mile from the Orange Curtain separating La Habra from Whittier, is a nice, airy, clean, spacious store with an impressive salsa bar; radishes, several salsas, a huge bowl of carrots in escabeche and chiles güeritos free for the taking. There's an array of Mexican beers in the fridge behind the cash register.

The fish and shrimp combination comes with one fish taco, one shrimp taco, chips, salsa and a drink. You can add rice and beans for 99¢; I declined.

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Dave Lieberman
Their fish taco is in a light, almost tempura-like batter. The crema was nice and tangy, but there was too much cabbage on the taco, so that when I folded it to try and bite it, the excess cabbage prushed the crema and salsa fresca off and I had to do emergency structural repair to be able to get the ingredients to stay on the taco.

The shrimp taco was ethereal; a long, crispy shrimp that was absolutely perfectly cooked, with the right amount of cabbage, more of that great crema, and good salsa fresca, on two nice "corn-y" tasting tortillas. A squeeze of lime and a dash of salsa picante and the shrimp taco was gone in no time at all.

The chiles were nice and fresh and just salty enough. Chiles güeritos vary in heat, and you never know until you bite into them whether you've got a doozy or not. In this case, one of them was mild, one was very spicy and one was eye-wateringly spicy.

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