Today I opened up the freezer and saw that I had four different types of fish sitting there staring back at me. I know I should eat more fish. More b vitamins and all that. But when I get around to the practicality of fish eating, I always find a reason not to eat it. It smells too fishy is the general complaint that I apply to most fish, but it can range from too oily to an unappealing texture. Especially in China, where they leave the heads on their fish and then chase you around with the eyeball trying to get you to eat it, you know, for luck because you’re the honored guest…

Let’s just say I have a slight prejudice against fish, and to get me to actually eat it requires a combination of perfect circumstances. The same can not be said of shellfish of any sort, which I eat more than happily.

I just happen to live in Shanghai though. “Sea” is in the name of the city (hai, in Chinese means ocean), and so I have access to the most beautiful fish. I really need to learn to cook with it, and more importantly, cook with it in a way that I find appealing, and unfishy.

I went with the two beautiful tilapia filets that were sitting there in my freezer on top. I’d heard it was typically a very flaky fish, with very little offensive fish taste.  But just in case, I made a recipe that I knew I could cover in a taco with lots of salsa.

Friends had also brought over the most beautiful mangoes that are flooding local fruit stands on Sunday for brunch, and we had a few left over, which inspired the fruity roasted salsa. They’re absolutely everywhere, and so we have been eating them left and right. Snacking on a mango is so much better than snacking on… say… another piece of chocolate beet cake.

(Side note: except my friend just said that she’d gotten a rash from eating too many mangoes – like some sort of allergic reaction. Evidently, the Chinese believe mangoes to be a toxic fruit. I poked around a little and found that the Chinese believe there are cold, hot, toxic, and neutral fruits. I’ll explore a little and let you know what I can find out later this week!)

Crispy Chipotle Lime Tilapia with Avocado Sauce and Roasted Corn and Mango Salsa


1 canned chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
2 tablespoons adobo sauce from the can
1 tablespoon lime juice
4 tilapia fillets
1/2 (8 ounce) package tortilla chips, crushed

1 small avocado – peeled, pitted, and cut into large chunks
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lime juice
3 tablespoons milk
2 cloves garlic

2 ears corn, roasted and kernels removed
1 medium mango, diced
1 tomato, seeds removed and diced
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped roughly
juice of two limes


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Combine the chipotle pepper, adobo sauce, salsa, and 1 tablespoon lime juice in a blender and blend until smooth (alternately, just chop really finely, if you don’t want to dirty a blender twice); brush the mixture over both sides of each tilapia fillet.

3. Spread the crushed tortilla chips into the bottom of a deep dish; dredge the coated fillets in the chips to coat. Arrange the fillets on the prepared baking pan.

4. Bake the fillets 15 minutes; turn and lightly spray with cooking spray. Continue to bake until golden brown, another 10 to 15 minutes.

5. While the fish bakes, place the avocado, sour cream, garlic, and 1 tablespoon lime juice and blend until smooth. Stir in the milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the consistency is similar to ranch dressing. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Assemble the salsas ingredients. Toss, and let flavors come together while the fish finishes up. To serve, spoon the sauce and salsa over top a filet. I served this over black beans, and squeezed another half a lime over top each plated dish.

Critic’s Comments

He ate his, and half of mine (the tilapia filets were too big for me to finish one by myself. They were huge), so I’d say it was a hit.

“It tasted like a $20 fish taco without the shell of course. Though I very nearly started shoveling it down with my hands.” (He just tried to retract that last bit. It’s staying.)

“Except usually when I think of fish tacos I think of feeling really sick and bloated, but this was clean and refreshing, and my tummy feels fantastic.”

And upon reading what he had dictated to me, “I should shut up now.” Poor thing. Embarrassed by his unique language skills. This is why neither Walker or I teach English. We would impart the worst grammar and knowledge of the English language on our students (victims), and so we have instead both decided that corporate communications is a smarter career choice. Where we can use words like leverage and dialogue as the verbs they are not.

I agree, Walker, I agree. Maybe you should retire for the night. But the sentiment is nice. This could easily have been converted into a fish taco. And he’s right. There’s no greasy feeling, and the mango and cilantro make the whole dish feel light and really enhance the flavor of the fish. I will have to say that the left overs will be appearing in a fish taco tomorrow for lunch, and that salsa will be a staple while the toxic mango fruit is still so abundant.

It didn’t even taste like fish, which for me makes it just right.