Seafood is the name of the game in Baja California, Mexico’s longest peninsula. In recent years, the word on the lips of many chefs both in Mexico and beyond has been Baja Med – a vibrant local cuisine that blends Mexican, Mediterranean and Asian influences. Here’s our rundown of the iconic dishes you need to try in Baja California.
Tempura fish tacos
A quintessential Baja Med dish, batter-fried fish tacos originated from the large Japanese immigrant population who worked as fishermen in Ensenada. These new arrivals came to Mexico in the early 20th century, bringing with them tempura – a technique for deep frying fish in batter. Originally the dish was made with shark, but over-fishing has made this a far less affordable or ethically sound option. Tilapia or cod are now the most common fish used in the tacos.
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The Mediterranean influence on Baja cuisine comes to the fore in this delicious vegan appetizer. The dish is based on an Italian recipe that uses thinly sliced raw meat or fish. This Baja variation uses beet instead, making a light and very healthy starter that is now a regular on the menus of Baja’s best restaurants. The salad is typically served with blue cheese and mint vinaigrette.
Bacon wrapped shrimp
These delicious bite-sized shrimp appetizers are a favorite everywhere on the peninsula, from the finest restaurants to the simplest backyard barbeque. The dish works so well in Baja because the region offers some of the freshest and tastiest shrimp available anywhere in the world. Many restaurants marinate the shrimp in lime and olive oil for extra flavor.
This mouthwatering starter is a feature on the menus of top Tijuana eateries such as La Querencia and La Justina. The dish blends juicy smoked oysters with a creamy chipotle sauce made from smoked dried jalapeños, mayonnaise, sour cream and lime juice. A truly delicious dish.
Although boiled lobster is available throughout the Baja peninsula, the dish is typically pan-fried in lard, so the meat stays tender in a crunchy envelope. The town of Puerto Nuevo is commonly regarded as the “Lobster Capital,” of the peninsula. This tiny fishing village of less than 200 inhabitants has dozens of restaurants serving pan-fried lobster with beans, rice and tortillas.
Abulónes, or sea snails, are a major delicacy on the Baja peninsula. The snails are typically gently fried in white wine and butter. Manzanilla, an elegant Ensenada eatery, serves legendary Abulónes. The dish is also served with spicy green sauce at the Bruma Valle de Guadalupe resort just outside the village of Guadalupe.
Manzanilla, Teniente José Azueta 139, Centro, Ensenada, Baja California, +52 646 175 7073
Bruma Valle de Guadalupe, Ensenada, Baja California, +52 646 194 8239
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