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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Island (Maui) Style Mahi Mahi Tacos

Yes, "Fish Tacos" may sound strange unless you're from California or other coastal/island cities. We just don't seem to have many of them around here in Michigan. However, during our honeymoon in Maui, The New Husband and I saw them all over the place and I made sure to try them at least once.

The first place was at Leilani's which was our first night in Maui. It was delicious! The second time, where we both had them, was at a "Jawz Island Style Fish Tacos" roadside wagon down by Makena beach. We hung out at the south-western Maui beaches a few days in a row and this particular day had worked up quite a hunger body boarding and these large tacos totally hit the spot. I never forgot how delicious they were and how it really just added to an already perfect day.

I tried making some fish tacos once we got home, and they were pretty good but I was hoping to find an official recipe online somewhere. It turns out fish tacos are made on the east coast frequently and they are totally different - deep fried cod! The Island Style fish taco is grilled Mahi Mahi or Tilapia and had island flavors to accompany it: fresh tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, lime, etc. The east coast version recipes looked totally different.

The other day, I got a hankering for fish tacos again, especially after looking through the honeymoon photos. I searched online again in hopes that a recipe had appeared recently and I happily came across a recipe which I used that night. I also came across reviews for Jawz, (not all great - some people in Cali really say their tacos are better), and a Jawz Fish Tacos website to refresh my memory on what we ordered from the road-side taco truck in Makena. The Island Style recipe looked pretty darned close, even with the red and green sauce... and "Island Style" is the same term Jawz uses. I was pretty excited to give the recipe a whirl.

I didn't follow the recipe to a T but what we came up with was awesome. The Husband said it was great, but couldn't remember if it was like our honeymoon meals... I thought it was pretty close but it has been a year and a half so who knows. Whether it's like Maui or not, this recipe is excellent.

Island Style Fish Tacos
with Creamy Garlic Dressing and Salsa Fresca

See here for the original recipe I found online.
Here is the recipe I used, with my personal changes noted.

1 lb of Mahi Mahi (made about 4 tacos, enough for 2-3 people)
Fresh (I only had dried) herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper
Olive Oil

1 package of seasoned bell peppers and sweet corn (I bought this at Nino's just for a quick side and decided to add it into the taco, which tasted great. Just used canned corn (and cooked diced bell peppers or buy the can that already has those), and season with garlic, salt, pepper, and maybe cumin). Mexican or spanish style rice would also be a good "filler"

1 package sliced cabbage
1 lime cut into wedges
4 soft flour fajita-size tortillas
1 cup shredded white cheese - chihuahua or monterrey jack or mozzerella

Salsa Fresca
1 Large Ripe Tomato, Finely Diced
¼ Round Onion, Diced
1 T Cilantro, Minced
1 Large Clove Of Garlic, Crushed
½ Green Bell Pepper, Minced (I later realized that I forgot this ingredient, oops!)
Chili Flakes, Pinch
Lemon Juice
Salt & Pepper

I didn't make the exact Garlic Dressing because I didn't want to buy buttermilk for something just myself wanted a tablespoon of... so here's what I did:

Quick Creamy Garlic Dressing
1 tbsp of mayonnaise
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp garlic powder (was too lazy to use blender so I didn't use fresh garlic)
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped fine

This sauce was a nice addition to the taco, though I bet the original recipe's sauce is better!

Chop the fish into bite-size cubes and place in a plastic bag with herbs/seasonings and olive oil. Put in fridge for an hour. Immediately start making the Salsa fresca - I used my mini-chopper and chopped all of the ingredients together, and then let sit in the fridge for an hour as well. Make sure to taste the salsa and add enough salt as needed.

While things are marinating, make the garlic sauce (or you can skip this if you don't like mayo like The Husband, and in a pinch regular tartar could work). I also put the cabbage into a bowl and added some cilantro and got out a lime to use to sprinkle on top at the end. I also heated up (microwave) the corn mixture, and this can be skipped or you could add rice for the taco.. all these combinations would be tasty.

After things have marinated, bring out the fish. I used my grill pan and grilled the fish until tender but cooked through. I warmed the tortillas in the microwave for a minute or so.

To assemble the tacos - just start layering the different ingredients on top of the tortilla. Fish, corn or rice, shredded cheese, cabbage, salsa fresca, garlic dressing, and garnish with a lime. Unlike the original recipe, I added shredded white cheese which I thought was definitely a must. Enjoy!


  1. I love fish tacos!

    Taco Fish La Paz in Guadalajara, Mexico has a stand on Avenida La Paz in Guadalajara sounds like ‘Taco Nirvana’.

    My experience in Mexico is that some of the best places to eat are those that are off the beaten path that the locals frequent.

    I’ve been looking for good places to eat in Guadalajara and Taco Fish La Paz in Guadalajara sounds like just the place.

    Fortunately, I live in Ajijic, Jalisco so the trip is a short one.

    My mouth is watering,


    Joe Chapala
    Casa Preciosa Ajijic, Mexico

  2. I found your blog today when I was looking to see if anyone had published the recipe yet for Jawz Fish Tacos. Nice blog!! :-)

    Your tacos sound delicious, but I noticed you said you couldn't remember if they were like the ones you had on your honeymoon.

    I sweet-talked the recipe away from the guy manning the grill at the Jawz truck in Maui a few years ago. I have made these fish tacos for family and friends who've eaten there, and we all agree: These taste EXACTLY like the ones they make at Jawz. Maybe you would like to see for yourself, so thought I would share it with you and your readers today.

    The key to Jawz tacos is their pink sauce, which is simply Best Foods mayonnaise (Hellmann's if you're East of the Rockies!) and Pace Chunky medium-hot salsa blended together until it is "pink"! I know... I couldn't believe it either,but trust me on this, and use Best Foods mayo and the Pace salsa... And no, I do not work for either company! :-)

    Jawz uses grilled mahi mahi, but any mild white fish works -- I use talapia, and it's delicious. My kids also love grilled shrimp tacos (instead of the fish) with all the same fixings.

    Here's HOW they do it:
    Make the pink sauce: about 1/2 cup Best Foods mayonnaise and 1/3 cup Pace Chunky Salsa (medium hot)
    You may want to double the recipe, but you can whip more up in a hurry if you run out. :-)

    Lightly fry CORN tortillas in a little oil until they are hot, soft and pliable. (My speed trick: Spray them one by one with olive oil spray and stack them 10 or so high on a plate. Cover stack with a lightly damp paper towel (squeeze out the water!), and microwave for a minute and a half.)

    Assemble the tacos in this way:

    1. Spread about a teaspoon of sour cream on the hot, softened tortilla.

    2. Add about 1.5 - 2 Tbsp. warm cooked rice (I prefer brown rice, but think Jawz uses white?)

    3. Add a good sized chunk of grilled white fish (about 1/4 of one tilapia filet, or a piece about 4"X 1.5" X 3/4".) To cook the fish, here's another speed trick: I spray a large piece (about 12"- 13" long) of aluminum foil with olive oil. I take 3-4 whole tilapia filets, pat them dry, and season with a sprinkling of chili powder and onion powder, on one half of the large piece of foil. Fold other half of foil over and wrap the filets, single layer, into a tight flat "package". Crimp all sides together so it won't leak while cooking. I put the fish package, foil and all, on my 4-burger-sized preheated George Foreman grill for 7 minutes or you can cook on a gas or charcoal barbecue for around 10 minutes! If you use a BBQ, flip the package once during cooking. BE CAREFUL when opening the fish package, this is HOT and steamy! But it cooks perfectly every time, and clean-up is a snap!)

    4. Top with minced green cabbage (cut into tiny, almost rice-sized pieces), a little grated colby or mild cheddar cheese, and LOTS of the pink sauce.

    I promise you will love 'em!

    Melissa Miller Esomething
    Sacramento, CA

  3. OOPS...Forgot to tell you to have fresh-cut limes or lemons to sueeze on top! Enjoy!

  4. Yum! This sounds great. We just got back from Maui and bought fresh fish to try making fish tacos, but have never in my life cooked fish before. Wish me luck!