Blackened Tilapia Fish Tacos | Adventures in Puerto Rico

 ¡Pásalo bien! Have fun! Mustachioed and muscular Luis, called out to us in Spanish as he waved our little boat out of the cove. "Pablo will take good care of you."

Hansom hubby, myself, and our friends, George and Elise waved back enthusiastically. We were all on holiday together in Puerto Rico and having the most marvelous time.

"And I'll have my famous fish tacos waiting for you when you get back," Luis' diminutive wife called out to us from shore. 

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The husband and wife team owned a little snorkeling venture off the beach in Ponce, Puerto Rico. 

Other than Hansom, none of us had been snorkeling before. But it was Elise who was the brave one, the one who convinced us that this was a superb idea. Elise was the one who spotted Luis' Snorkeling and Diving Shop. And Elise was the one who talked the rest of us into committing to a snorkeling trip in the Caribbean Sea. After all, isn't that what one's supposed to do? Experience the warm, shimmering waters, with ever changing shades of magnificent blue, punctuated by shoals of colorful tropical fishes that swirl around you, just as if you were in a gigantic fish bowl. That's what Elise said. So, if anyone was to receive credit...or blame, for this adventure, let me make it clear that this was all Elise's fault.

We were soon bouncing along excitedly in our speed boat, with Pablo at the wheel, cutting through azure blue waters and leaving behind a wake of mesmerizing foam caps behind us. 

Hansom was enjoying the scenery and the wind in his crew cut hair, Elise and I had stripped down to our newly purchased bikinis, giggling and fussing. And like two little cats, we continued to change positions on the boat trying to find the most comfortable spot on the boat. George doing what George does best, displaying a quiet sense of regality, stood majestically beside our driver, taking it all in with an air of normalcy as if going out on the boat was a daily affair for him.

Fifteen minutes into our ride, Pablo slowed the boat down and eventually dropped anchor in the middle of the sea. He then gestured to us to put on our equipment and go jump in. It turned out that our wonderful guide didn't speak any English and since we didn't speak any Spanish, that's all we were left with; some sign language and gesticulations and a number of guesses. The next thing we heard was a large splash and then there were just four of us left on the boat. We peeped over the edge of the boat, but Pablo was nowhere to be seen.  Pablo had jumped in and gone diving by himself, leaving us to our own devices. 

Never mind. Hansom had snorkeled before. So, he guided us on putting on our gear. Elise and I busied ourselves putting on our life jackets and pulling on our fins and then we proceeded to prance around the boat like two ungainly frogs, entertaining ourselves and falling over in fits of giggles under Hansom's reproachful gaze. 

"Are you ready to get into the water?" Hansom asked impatiently.

"Let's go, mate," shot back George.

Three sets of eyes turned on George and for a split second we stood transfixed before bursting out into an uproarious roar. There stood George glowing in the sunlight with his hands on his hips, looking totally resplendent in a most befitting pair of budgie smugglers, a size too small, that left little to the imagination.

George, probably a little embarrassed, was now eager to get into the water and away from us girls' anything but discreet laughs and cat calls. 

Hansom, gave us directions. "Sit on the edge of the boat and then fall over backwards," he said before demonstrating with a big and ungainly splash. George was quick to follow with an even mightier and more uncoordinated splash accompanied with decent levels of indecent exposure.

With each body splash, Elise and I clung to each other in the boat, hysterical with laugher watching the bumbling entry of the boys into the water.

But George's always-serene and in-control expression soon turned to one signaling a bit of distress, probably from the way he hit the water or the unaccustomed sensation of moving in the water with snorkeling gear. Elise sensing this, quickly jumped in herself, in an attempt to save him or provide moral support, who knows. 

So, before I knew it, I was the only left on the boat with tears of laughter streaming down my face, as I looked down at the three jokers, two of whom didn't seem to be enjoying being in the water very much.

Not to be left behind, I took my position on the edge of the boat and tipped myself over backwards like I had seen them do, hitting the water hard and clumsily, enveloped by a white froth of bubbles which left me disoriented and breathless. In an instant, all joviality left me as the only thing I wanted now was to get out of the water as fast as I had got in. I hadn't secured my life jacket tight across my chest, so it had ridden up around my neck and was suffocating me. Hansom came to my rescue and wrestled the life jacket off. I then made a grab to get to the boat, but the edge of the boat from where we had jumped in was a good four to five feet above me and the hull of the boat was curved! Who knew! And how do I get back on now? 

Ah a rope! I blindly grabbed for the rope and feeling the roughness in my palm was the best feeling yet. I let out a sigh of relief and allowed my brain and eyes to adjust to my surroundings. I was clinging to a rope that ran along the hull of the boat. And alongside me, clinging with equal tenacity were George and Elise. All smiles and giggles from our faces were now replaced with fear and tears. Clearly being out in the open water was not as relaxing as we thought it would be. Hansom was a few feet away from us staring at us in disbelief and shouting at us to leave the side of the boat. But none of us would have it. And while the three of us floated and commiserated how to get back on the boat, the waves pushed our legs under the boat. And let me tell you what the underside of a boat is like. It's full of barnacles! Barnacles that grazed and cut our legs. No fun, none whatsoever.

Hand over hand on the rope, the three of us made our way around the boat, searching for a ladder or some way to get back on the boat. Finally, we reached the back of the boat and the stationary propeller. And with desperation, we climbed through the propeller and pulled ourselves up and fell panting into the boat, cut and bleeding but happy to be back on a firm surface.

"Come back in the water," Hansom commanded, then cajoled and eventually pleaded with us. It took a good half an hour before we summoned up our courage to try again. This time we found the landing steps and gingerly lowered ourselves into the water, allowing us time to feel the sensation of the water and experiment with the fins, mask and snorkel. In time we got the hang of it. And we did see some colourful fish and have a decent enough time. 

By the time Pablo returned and piloted us to shore, our smiles and giggles had returned to some extent. And after we had showered at Luis' and Luis' wife laid out the delicious fish tacos for us to dig into, I secretly thought to myself that the best part of this snorkeling trip was really the fish tacos. Fish tacos I'll definitely do again, snorkeling maybe not.

Tilapia Fish Tacos- My Taco Bar

Back in the U.S., I make fish tacos at the drop of a hat for dinner. So easy and so healthy, my favourite fish to use is tilapia, though any white, flaky fish like cod or halibut is equally good. 

The best part is once I set out all the ingredients, everybody makes their own tacos. So there's less work for the cook.

Marinade the fish with a green seasoning and then grill or pan fry the fish fillets. Serve with corn tacos and a green tomatillo salsa, lime wedges, coriander, corn and onions. Pickled carrots and grilled, blackened  jalapeno chili sides are an additional option.

Here's a picture of my table, set out with all the ingredients for each one to assemble their own fish tacos.

Fish taco bar, blackened tilapia for fish tacos surrounded with grilled jalapenos, green tomatillo salsa, corn, onions, coriander and corn tortillas
My taco bar set out with all the ingredients for everybody to assemble their own tacos. Grilled fish in the center surrounded by green tomatillo salsa, chopped coriander, onions, lime, tortillas, tortilla chips and grilled jalapenos.

How to Build Tacos

To assemble a taco, sprinkle a warm corn tortilla with a little lime and salt, break apart the fish and spread a little fish in the center of the tortilla. Top with a teaspoon of tomatillo salsa, onions, corn and coriander. Fold the tortilla into two and enjoy along with a ice-cold margarita.

blackened tilapia for fish tacos, blackened fish tacos on the grill, Chile verde fish tacos, 3 tortillas filled with tilapia filets on a plate with lime wedges

Recipe for Blackened Tilapia Grilled Fish Tacos with Chile Verde


☐ 1 packet Chile Verde Seasoning Fish Taco Seasoning mix
☐ 1 lb. tilapia fish fillets
☐ Oil
☐ Green tomatillo salsa
☐ Corn tortillas
☐ Chopped onions
☐ Chopped coriander
☐ Corn
☐ Lime wedges

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Sprinkle the seasoning mix over the tilapia filets. Rub the mix into the filets and set aside for 30 minutes.
  2. If pan frying fish, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and fry the filets in batches for approximately 4 minutes per side until the fish is done. If grilling, brush the grill with oil and place the tilapia on the grill. Cover and grill for 4 minutes on each side. Set aside cooked fish in a plate.
  3. Heat the corn tortillas and keep them warm in a tortilla case.
  4. Serve with cut wedges of lime, green tomatillo salsa, chopped onions and coriander. 
  5. To eat, sprinkle corn tortilla with a little lime and salt, spread a little fish in the center of the tortilla. Top with a teaspoon of tomatillo salsa, onions, corn and coriander. Fold tortilla into two and enjoy.

Click on the 'Travelecipes' label below to read more of my food stories from my travels around the world.

And for more of my adventures with Hansom Hubby, check out our Wild Boar Masinagudi Shoot.

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