I’ve been sitting on this marinade recipe for months now, just trying to figure out what kind of protein or dish it would do justice to. Will it stand up to chicken? Will it marry well with the sweet flavours of the sea? How can a marinade taste this good by itself? It’s all in the chillies. I found a bounty of these plump medium-sized chillies, a bit smaller than my whole palm, at the vegetable market in Khar. I bit into one and it was spicier than the ones we use for making pakoras or fritters- bhavnagri. These were the ones I wanted, and you too should look out for. Roasting these chillies will do something magical to them- their glossy skins will shrink and their flavour will change to something wonderful. When blitzed together with the rest of the ingredients- all fairly simple and should come out of the cupboard- you will be armed with a table sauce unlike anything you have tasted before. Zingy, spicy and a bit herby, these are notes I feel will sit wonderfully in a taco. The best tacos, I feel, are the ones that give you the flexibility of making it yourself. Extra chillies? Yes please. A spritz of lemon juice? How can I say no? More pickles? Hell yeah. Spread this out on a table for a Sunday evening spread with cocktails or make this part of an appetizer course for when friends come over. Either way, you’ll find that it’s hard to eat just one of these saucy, messy hot rolls.
While I’ve used prawns here, you can swap them for squid or a fish of your choice. If you’re doing this, use a standard batter-fried recipe like you would for fish and chips. Fried prawns taste great too, but I’m trying to watch my fried food, so a few tosses in a hot grill pan worked well for me. I’m listing down a few more great ideas that would go well with this sauce below. Note that guac and sour cream are optional, but I find that the latter may tone down or interfere with the heat of the sauce:
Fried chicken/ Shredded chicken, plain like the kinds you’d put in a sandwich, a simple slaw of vegetables, some fresh chillies, lime juice, coriander + sauce
Fried / Grilled fish, purple cabbage slaw, pickled jalapeños, coriander, lime juice + sauce
Slices of avocado, rajma beans, chopped red/yellow bell peppers and corn seasoned and tossed in lime juice, cabbage slaw, quick pickled onions + sauce. You could also use fried paneer or fried tofu here too.
For the tacos- Makes approximately 12
Maida 2 cups
Salt 1/2 tsp
Baking powder 1 tsp
Oil 2 tbsp
Water about 3/4 cup
For the Quick-Pickled Cucumbers and Radishes
White vinegar 1/2 cup
Salt 1 tbsp
Sugar 3/4 tbsp
Cucumbers 2, cut into batons
Mooli or Daikon Radish 1/2 big, cut into batons
For The Sauce
Red chillies preferably plump fat, but spicy ones 100g (a little less than this is okay)
Garlic 6 cloves
Olive oil 70ml
Lime juice 1 tbsp, plus more
Tomato puree 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp
Dried chilli flakes 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder 1 tbsp
Mixed herbs or Dried Oregano 1/4 tsp
Sugar 1/4 tsp
Salt 2 tsp
Prawns 500g, medium-sized, washed and deveined
Limes 2-3, cut into slices to serve
Coriander leaves 1/2 bunch, chopped roughly
Start by pickling the cucumber and radish batons. Combine the vinegar, salt and sugar ina small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Then take it off the heat and pour over the cucumber and radish and set it aside, covered till it is time to serve. You can do this as much as a day before you serve these tacos.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Scatter the red chillies and garlic in a baking tray with the olive oil and let it blister and scorch for about 10 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes, then transfer the chillies to the mixer grinder together with the oil and blitz. Add in the lime juice, tomato puree, chilli flakes, chilli powder, mixed herbs, sugar and salt to finish. Blitz again and taste. Add about 3 heaped tablespoonfuls of this marinade to the prawn and let it sit while you make the tortillas.
For the tortillas, whisk together the all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add in the oil and using the tips of your fingers just mix it into the flour mixture. Next up, pour in the water little by little till the dough comes together well. Knead a few times like you would for rotis and leave it undisturbed for fifteen minutes. Then come back and separate these into small balls that you would later be rolling out. Place a flat tawa over medium high heat, and armed with a rolling pin, roll out each of the balls into a round tortilla. Place this on the tawa and let it get a good colour going on either side. You want just a few spots on each side. Place each of these tortillas in a container you’d ideally put rotis in so that they are warm.
Brush the grill pan with any leftover oil and let it heat till smoking. Add in the prawns and saute over medium heat for a minute. Add some leftover sauce to the pan and toss the prawns around for a minute more taking care to not overcook them. When they curl up, you know they’re close to finishing, so t’s best to taste one now. Don’t let all the liquid dry out, it’s always nice to have some runny sauce in your taco.
Serve alongside the pickled vegetables, some wedges of lime and fresh coriander on the side.