Limited Edition for Lent: El Charrito Market’s Friday Fish Tacos [Salinas]
Located across the street from the Sacred Heart Catholic Church, El Charrito Market becomes fish taco central on Fridays during Lent. I’ve managed to miss this Salinas tradition but vowed this year to check out the action. Dropping in two weeks ago around 4pm, I left empty-handed. The fish tacos had sold out long before that hour. Today, I headed over early and at 11:35A, found about eight people ahead of me already scooping up the fish tacos.
Ordered with everything, one of the reasons these tacos de pescado shine is the very fresh homemade flour tortilla. Very elastic and chewy, the hot, just-made tortillas were delivered to the assembly counter six at a time. On top of this base, a log of battered and fried white fish about 4” long, then creamy cole slaw, a drizzle of crema, and a shot of hot sauce. Wrapped up in a piece of white paper, stuffed into a paper bag marked with the price ($2.29 apiece), my purchase was handed to me at the cashier bundled in another plastic bag. Good thing, as in the few minutes it took me to get these home, the paper bag was wet and coming apart from the steam and the white paper wrapping was soggy and stained with orange hot sauce. But, a Good Friday miracle! The battered fish was stayed crunchy despite all that dampness.
The combination of textures --- chewy, crispy, juicy, creamy, tender --- makes these fish tacos so delectable. Well-seasoned batter, adornments applied in the just the right proportions, and the clean-frying make these the closest to an Ensenada-style fish taco I’ve run across in these parts. In some ways, better than Baja, as the flour tortillas are far superior.
Today’s the last day of fish taco season at El Charrito, and I can hardly wait until it comes back next year.
El Charrito Market
122 W Market St
Yesterday was my first Friday fish taco of Lent 2014 at El Charrito. Even at 1:30p, there were more than a dozen people in line.
The fish tacos are $2.59 apiece, plus sales tax. The fresh and warm corn tortillas are prepared in small batches. Made with housemade masa, not Maseca, the corn tortillas are chewy and thick, I mistook them for flour. I nodded when asked if I wanted everything, which turned out to be a creamy slaw with bits of fresh tomato, lemon wedge on the side, and a packet of Tapatio hot sauce.
Rushing these home, they did steam a bit under the plastic wrap. Not as transcendent as the one last year, mostly because the batter on the fish had softened and was not crunchy.
I'll be back before the end of Lent. But I'll be sure to arrive before noon for fish fresh from the fryer, instead of held on the steam table.