Surf's up in Tofino — and delicious food too, columnist says
Check out this recipe for a Tofino staple: fish tacos
Many people visit Tofino for the surfing, the natural beauty and the relaxed pace, but On The Coast food columnist Gail Johnson says it has a lot to offer foodies as well.
Johnson, who spent last week in Tofino, says it's remarkable a town of only 2,000 people has so many top-notch restaurants, many of which are focused on local and seasonal ingredients from the ocean and forest surroundings.
Johnson says Tofino got a boost when Wolf in the Fog opened two years ago and earned the title of Best New Restaurant in Canada by EnRoute Magazine.
- Snorting chocolate: A Vancouver Halloween treat for the big kids?
- A latte great options when it comes to coffee shop food, columnist says
- Think you're eating real wasabi with your sushi? Chances are you're getting rolled
"It lives up to the hype," she told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn. "We're talking things like salal-infused gin, chanterelle mushrooms foraged on the outskirts of town, seaweed from Bamfield and, of course, fish from a dock that's a block away from the restaurant.
"I'd eaten lunch there a couple of times but had never had dinner there until this trip. It was without a doubt the best meal I've had all year."
Another highlight for Johnson is Sea Monster, a noodle spot in the heart of Tofino. She says it's a "minimalist" place that serves up dishes like pad Thai, fish curry and their standout item, the "Dan Bowl," which has ground pork, gai lan in a Szechuan sauce with chili oil and peanuts.
There's also Surfside Grill, a beachfront shack on Cox Bay at Pacific Sands Beach Resort. It serves excellent salmon or lingcod tacos with grilled or fried fish served with housemade "avo-tillo" sauce — avocados and tomatillos — as well as chipotle mayo and a tomato salsa crudo with cilantro and green onions.
You can make those tacos at home; here's the recipe.
Fish Tacos from Surfside Grill
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small, white, finely chopped onion
- 1 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 6 medium tomatillos, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 2 avocados, skinned and crushed
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tbsp crushed chipotle peppers
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp freshly finely chopped cilantro
- Fresh tomato salsa
- 9 finely chopped Roma tomatoes
- 1 small white, finely chopped onion
- 1 tsp garlic, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeno, de-seeded and finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh, finely chopped cilantro
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tsp white sugar
- 2 tsp sea salt
Fish taco assembly
- 18 ½ oz. slices fresh lingcod
- Tempura batter (any brand or homemade is fine)
- 2 L canola or vegetable oil
- 18 fresh whole corn tortillas
- 1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
- ½ head green cabbage
- Fresh tomato salsa (see above)
- Avo-tillo sauce (see above)
- Chipotle mayo (see above)
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 6 limes
- Pour vegetable oil into a large saucepan and sauté onions, jalapeno pepper, and garlic until the onions are soft and translucent.
- Add coriander and cumin and toast for half a minute.
- Add tomatillos, white vinegar, lime juice, and sugar, and let simmer until tomatoes are just soft.
- Add avocados and puree with blender until smooth then add salt and pepper to taste.
- Chill and reserve for tacos.
- Whisk ingredients together and reserve for tacos.
Fresh tomato salsa
- Toss all ingredients into bowl and reserve for taco
Fish taco assembly
- Fill deep fryer or a large pot with canola or vegetable oil and heat oil to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (Only use enough to float the fish strips in if you are using a pot).
- Dip lingcod into tempura batter.
- One by one, add lingcod slowly to the hot oil so they form a quick crust and do not stick to the bottom or each other (only cook a few pieces of cod at a time).
- Once the outside crust is golden brown and fish is floating, approximately two minutes, remove and place on paper towel or a metal rack to dry on.
- In a hot skillet warm corn tortillas until lightly toasted and soft.
- Fill corn tortillas with cheese, shredded cabbage, avo-tillo sauce, and chipotle mayo.
- Top with tempura fried lingcod and fresh tomato salsa.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro sprigs and lime wedge.
With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast