Gastronorgásmico, [and just in time] for Cinco de Mayo. These just might be "my most perfect tacos," ever. The heat of the chili powder in the shrimp is cooled by the mint and sweet jicama in the cole slaw. The earthiness of the cabbage, the taste of the sea. Que rico!
These tacos put me on a beach, the sand between my toes, the sound of the waves peeling off a right cobblestone point break in the background. The heat of the midday sun beating against the nape of my neck. A Corona in one hand, a taco in the other.
This recipe was inspired in one part by a conversation with The Teenage Glutster about how one of the more underrated aspects of Mexican cuisine is mariscos, seafood. In another part, these were inspired by my friend Biggie gifting us a jar of his homemade "Chilli Powder."
"Chilli Powder" is Biggie's version of AB's Chili Powder by Alton Brown. It contains dried ancho, cascabel, and arbol chilies along with cumin, garlic powder, dried oregano, and paprika. You basically blend everything together and the result tastes like the store bought variety but with far more depth and punch.
FYI gringos, Cinco de Mayo is not "Mexico's 4th of July," that's on September 16th. On May 5, 1862 the Mexicans beat the French in the Battle of Puebla. Although Cinco de Mayo is not as widely celebrated in Mexico as it is in the US, it is still a celebration of Mexican culture. So, salud.
The Jicama plant is native to Mexico and has an edible tuber that has the texture of a raw potato and is nearly as sweet as a pear. It is wonderful sliced raw for crutide - and even better with a squirt of lime juice, some salt, and a dash of chili powder on top.
I wanted a slaw with some sharp acidity to it to counter the heat of the Chilli Powder. Lime was the natural choice but then I wanted some more depth and thought the mint would brighten things up and add a freshness. The jicama adds the sweetness to the mojito which rounds everything out. Lime, mint, and jicama + cabbage = Mojito Cole Slaw
The slaw takes a little prep, it can be done the day ahead, and the flavors get more pronounced over time. The tacos take almost no time at all, maybe 6 minutes. Note: If Biggie didn't give you a jar of "Chilli Powder," you can use store bought Chili Powder and add some Cayenne Pepper.
For the Mojito Cole Slaw (printable recipe)
- 1/2 a large cabbage, chopped into thin shreds
- 1 large carrot grated or shredded in a food processor
- 1/2 a jicama, julienne
- 1 cup yogurt
- 4 tablespoons of mint, chiffonade
- juice of 1/2 a lime
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- the zest of 1 lime
- 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
Make the dressing first by adding the yogurt, salt, pepper, mint, lime juice, lime zest, and celery salt in a bowl. Mix the cabbage, jimaca, and carrot together in a large bowl. Then, incorporate the dressing and the cabbage mixture well. Keep refrigerated.
For the Chili Shrimp Tacos (printable recipe)
- 1 pound 36/40 Shrimp "Medium Large," or really, whatever size you like
- 4 tablespoons of Chilli Powder (or, 3 tablespoons of Chili Powder + 1 tablespoon of Cayenne)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- 8 corn tortillas
- 2 large, ripe avocados, sliced into wedges
Heat the corn tortillas so that they are soft and pliable. Over the open flame of a gas stove works best, otherwise, heat then in a dry skillet, turning once. As they warm, wrap them in a stack in a kitchen towel tightly to keep them warm.
Rinse, de-vein, and clean all the shrimp. Dry them well with paper towels. Douse them with the salt, pepper, and Chilli Powder and toss them well so that the are evenly coated.
Bring a pan to medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of oil. If you don't have a large enough pan, cook the shrimp in two batches. Add the shrimp to the hot pan, turning, and cook through until they are pink, about 5 minutes.
Assemble the tacos. Place a few shrimp into a corn tortilla, top with a healthy smothering of the cole slaw, 2 avocado wedges, and a dash of your favorite Mexican hot sauce.
Muy delicioso, viva Mexico!