Wahoo's Fish Taco - Tustin
It was one of those nights. No one wanted to cook, but no one could could agree on where to go.
"How about Cambinos?"
"Cypress? Nah. Too far. Shibucho?"
"Too expensive for a middle of the week. And I'm not hungry enough for omakase."
After a half-hour more of this fruitless exchange, we finally made a decision. And that was to leave the decision up to fate, or at least the computer generated randomness of Urbanspoon's iPhone app. Whatever the electronic slots of the program decided was what we were going to eat for supper. The only parameters we entered was that it must be in our immediate vicinity (Tustin) and cheap (one dollar sign).
What the wheels landed on was Wahoo's Fish Taco, the Orange County-born chain that three Asian surfer dudes began more than a decade ago, now everywhere.
There was just one problem. I've never cared for their fish tacos. I'm of the deep fried camp. Battered, crunchy, greasy and decadent -- that's what the fish in a fish taco should be. Never grilled or made to be "healthy".
But that's not what I want to talk about here. This post is about the rediscovery on what I consider the best condiment I've ever had in a quasi-Mexican restaurant. Heck, I'll even go as far as to say that it's the best condiment ever served in the whole of O.C's restaurantdom. Called simply "Mr. Lee's", it's a chili paste of unparalleled complexity, flavor and depth.
Do not mistake it for salsa. No. This, my friends, is Indonesian sambal. Or at least it is something that tastes just like it. Thick, dark, a little oily, it is the doppelganger to the many kinds of sambals that Indonesian home cooks carefully mash up in a stone mortar and pestle.
And it's freakin' wonderful.
It's hot, of course, with the equivalent slow but intense burn of napalm on your tongue. But it's also gently sweet. Behind it, there's a hint of fishiness, a discernible but understated presence of umami, the fifth flavor.
If you've mastered Sriracha, Mr. Lee is the next level -- the advanced course in the hot sauce arts.
And best of all, it's free. Just ask for "Mr. Lee's" and they'll hand you a thimble of it, which is enough for some, but not for me. I used up two and would've gone for a third if I hadn't already finished my enchilada plate.
I slathered it on everything. On their enchiladas, which are better than I remembered them to be. On the beans. On the rice. Everything.
The sambal elevated it all, but especially the carne asada steak in the enchilada, which was cut into stamp-sized squares, already unexpectedly tender. The carnitas that filled the other enchilada -- blubbery and moist -- were perfect in their design to grab on the Mr. Lee's like a mop.
Now, just imagine what a few dabs of this stuff would taste like on a deep fried fish taco!
Wahoo's Fish Taco
13791 Newport Ave # 4
Tustin, CA 92780-4695
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