My taste buds and olfactory receptors are always on alert in anticipation of the Big Tex Choice Awards, the annual decadent fried food contest of the State Fair of Texas, which occurs about 5 weeks before the Fair actually opens. Eight finalists are chosen from a whole slew of clever entries from the concessionaires at the Fair, and from those eight, one is voted “Best Taste” and another “Most Creative.”
I always try to attend this event not only because it’s a fundraiser for youth scholarships, but because it’s one of the few times I can stuff myself with all the fried food I could possibly want and not be filled with guilt. A panel of judges and a master (in this case mistress) of ceremonies is chosen from local celebrities and each of the creators of the eight finalists are introduced, asked to talk about their creations including the ingredients, and then the votes are cast and the winners announced. After, all of us fried food fanatics rush to get a tray and go from booth to booth getting samples (and they are ample) of all of the finalists. We are always amazed at the creativity and uniqueness of the entries year after year (like fried bubblegum a few years ago).
The winner for Best Taste, Fried Jello, was sort of like a beignet with a thicker and more cherry like consistency inside, covered with panko-crusted breading, flash fried to perfection, dusted with powdered sugar, and topped with whipped cream and a cherry. Yum yum – loved it!
The winner for Most Creative, Cookie Fries, looked just like crinkle fries in a typical paper fries container, but these were either chocolate chip or sprinkles and instead of ketchup. These cookie fries came with a chocolate or strawberry sauce for dipping. It was also yummy – who doesn’t love cookies!
The other six were tasty as well.
My favorite at the State Fair of Texas fried food contest:
Deep Fried Pulled Pork “Funyun” Dings – pulled pork mixed with pepper jack cheese, pineapple slices and bacon, dipped in a flavorful batter and deep fried. It was served with BBQ sauce.
My friends all liked different ones:
Fernie’s Down Home Chicken Pot Pie with Mac ‘n Cheese Dip – a chicken pot pie filling ladled into flaky pastry dough and deep fried. It sort of looked like a hot pocket and was very filling.
Injectible Great Balls of BBQ – smoke crusted BBQ beef brisket shredded with BBQ sauce and formed into balls, breaded with seasoned bread crumbs and deep fried, served on a bed of coleslaw and with its own little syringe with more BBQ sauce that could be injected into the ball – very clever.
Southern Fried Chicken and Dumplins – shredded chicken mixed with seasonings, doug, and gravy then rolled into balls, coated with bread crumbs, and deep fried. It was served with fried biscuit bites and a side of gravy – true comfort food.
Caribbean Pineapple Korn-a-Copia – an entire half of a pineapple hollowed out and then filled with marinated grilled chicken and shrimp. It’s served on a bed of Caribbean fried rice and topped with a tropical salsa and pineapple run glaze. This was the biggest entry due to the half pineapple so all we got to sample was the interior – delicious!
Deep Fried Bacon Burger Dog Slider on a Stick – a skewer with a Hawaiian role cut in two – half at the front and half at the back. Between was a miniature ground beef patty stuffed with cheddar cheese and bacon – plus a miniature hot dog and a pickle dipped in tempura batter and deep fried. It was served on a bed of french fries with ranch dipping sauce – the combination was outstanding!
We all went home happy, stuffed, and ready for the State Fair of Texas to open on September 30 so we can chow down on more of our favorite fried concoctions.