My discovery of tiritas happened a while ago, when my Mexican partner said on a Sunday morning, “I want to take you to eat tiritas today.”
I had never heard the word and didn’t know what they were.
“They’re fish stripes.” Yes, he said “stripes.” “You know, fish that is cut like thin fingers. We sometimes eat them for breakfast here on the coast. They’re great, and I think you will like them.”
That’s all the information I got before we headed into town to eat what I thought would be some kind of fried fish fingers.
What a pleasant surprise to discover a plate of what resembled fish ceviche, but with a simpler look and a very distinctive taste focused on the lemon-cured fish and not much else. Everyone knows ceviche for its variety of flavors and diverse ingredients. Ceviche is created using cubed fish that is marinated in an acidic liquid like orange juice, and can feature an assortment of fruits and vegetables. Chefs can get very creative with their ceviche dishes, making them signature creations in their restaurants. Tiritas can also be slightly diverse in the taste and preparation, but unlike ceviche, it’s always made with very few ingredients and the concentrated flavor is on the lemon-cured fresh fish strips. No mangos, no apples, and no tomatoes. A simpler and not-so-sweet ceviche-type dish where the fresh fish is cut into strips and not cubes. I was hooked!
I have since tried tiritas in many different places and have found that one of the main things that can differentiate one tiritas dish from another is the amount of spice used in the preparation. The ingredients can vary, but the three main ingredients are almost always the same: the freshly cured fish strips, sea salt, and sliced red onions.
Peppers, avocado, and chilies are sometimes added, as well as cilantro and cucumbers. The dish is often topped with sliced avocados, radishes, or other ingredients for decoration. Some places add a little soya sauce or ketchup-type salsa to the dish for added flavor. Tiritas are often served with salty crackers or tostadas and can be enjoyed as an entrée or a main dish.
Tiritas originated in the Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa region; the dish has trickled down the coast over the years to become popular in many other Mexican tourist areas. Tiritas was actually prepared for the first time as a means to an end.
The story goes that fishermen set out to sea one day forgetting some ingredients to make the traditional ceviche-type cured fish dish that they were accustomed to making on the boat. They used what they had available and they cut the fresh fish into strips instead of cubes. And so was born tiritas de pescado!
We speak about tiritas in the plural. It’s actually a dish, but we use it in a plural form when referring to the actual plate of cut fish strips. Not sure why and pretty sure that it’s grammatically incorrect, but that’s just the way it is. Tiritas are “they” and not “it”.
If you’re looking to eat freshly prepared tiritas in Puerto Escondido, I suggest El Rey del Mar, a no-fluff and no-fuss, family-owned and run place in the Adoquin area, and as Mexican a family “comedor” as they come, with that expected fresh home-cooked experience every time. For a great picnic idea, take them to go (para llevar) and head to the beach, grabbing a coco frio on the way.
Another place to experience excellent tiritas is at El Coste Cevichería on Zicatela, where they have their own distinct flavor and presentation. This is a beautiful place to eat fresh tiritas in a gorgeous restaurant on the beach. Tiritas de pescado with your feet in the sand to the sound of the crashing waves. Yes, please!
The new baby on the block in Puerto Escondido is La Escondida Ceviche & Taco in the Adoquin area. They offer a remarkably tasty tiritas dish that is absolutely worth visiting them for. Just the right amount of spice to make your tongue warm but not to set it on fire. Perfect modern tiritas in my book!
Depending on the restaurant and the location, you’re looking at prices that vary between 85 pesos to 145 pesos per order of tiritas.
Saying yes to fish “stripes” for breakfast on a Sunday morning a few years ago was a great idea after all.
By Sandra Roussy