Many people attend the State Fair of Texas strictly for its crazy fried food. And this year, new offerings include fried Jell-O, chicken and dumplin's, and BBQ balls.
Those are among the eight finalists in the Big Tex Choice Awards, the fair's yearly competition to see who can cook up the craziest fried concessions. The top contenders for the 12th annual awards were chosen from a pool of more than 50 entries. Past finalists include deep fried Nutella, fried picnic on a stick, and last year's mind-boggling smoky bacon margarita.
Here are the 2016 State Fair of Texas fried food finalists:
- Caribbean pineapple korn-a-copia: It's a bird, it's a beach, it's a meal served in a half pineapple? This concoction comes from concessionaire Stephen Alade, who combines marinated chicken and shrimp over a bed of rice with tropical salsa and a rum glaze. It's a Caribbean take on the Thanksgiving cornucopia.
- Deep fried bacon burger dog slider on a stick: Consider this a meaty triple threat. Concessionaires Brent and Juan Reaves start with a miniature ground beef patty and stuff it with cheddar cheese, bacon and a beef hot dog before squishing it in a Hawaiian roll. It's then placed on a skewer, topped with a pickle, dipped in tempura and deep fried.
- Deep fried pulled pork Funyun dings: Say hello to your favorite childhood snack. This twist, from concessionaire Chris Howard, is stuffed with pulled pork, pepper jack cheese, pineapple slices and bacon before being dipped in batter and fried. Orders are served with a sweet barbecue sauce.
- Fernie's down home chicken pot pie pocket with mac 'n cheese dip: This treat comes from Big Texas Choice Awards veteran Christi Erpillo, whose fried carrot cake won "best tasting" in 2015. The pot pie pocket is stuffed with all the fixin's — potatoes, carrots, peas, corn, herbs and spices — before being wrapped in flaky pastry dough and fried. Served with a side of sharp cheddar "mac 'n cheese" sauce.
- Fried Jell-O: Welcome to another kid classic. Concessionaire Ruth Hauntz takes cherry-flavored Jell-O, batters it with panko and fries it. The dish is served with whipped cream.
- Injectable great balls of BBQ: Expect shredded brisket to come crusted in a battered ball. It's served with its own pipette of bock barbecue sauce over a bed of coleslaw. It comes from Glen Kusak.
- Southern fried Chicken & Dumplin's: Does it get any more Southern than this? Concessionaire Clint Probst combines shredded chicken, seasoning, dough and a touch of gravy, which is then rolled into balls and coated with bread crumbs.
- State Fair cookie fries: Big Tex Choice Awards veteran Isaac Rousso's wife came up this idea that plays on this savory side dish in a sweet way. Cookie fries look like crinkle-cut french fries dotted with chocolate chip and confetti sprinkles. They're served with buyer's choice of strawberry sauce or chocolate sauce.
All of the new finalists will be served at the State Fair of Texas, which runs Sept. 30 to Oct. 23 at Fair Park in Dallas. Specific prices have yet to be announced, but they likely won't top last year's pricey fried lobster, which cost 60 tickets. (That's $30!)
But how will you, oh hungry reader, know which ones are worth your dollar? A team of judges will be evaluating the eight finalists and crowning one the "best-tasting" at the Big Tex Choice Awards ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 2 p.m. (Tickets cost $100 for those interested in attending and sampling each of the finalists.)
[UPDATE Aug. 24 at 4:20 p.m.: The State Fair announced the Big Tex Awards judges. They include Dallas city councilwoman Tiffinni Young; chef and restaurateur Kent Rathbun; radio personality Dan O'Malley from 97.1 The Eagle; food and fitness blogger Mai Lyn Ngo of Deep Fried Fit; Eddie Jackson, who won season 11 of The Next Food Network Star; world champion bull rider Don Gay; and radio personality Michelle Rodriguez of 96.3 KSCS.]
One dish will also be dubbed "most creative." Past winners in this category include the Funnel Cake Ale (2014), fried Thanksgiving dinner (2013), deep fried butter (2009) and fried Coke (2006).
Last year's crazy concoctions included fried alligator, Lone Star pork handle and pretzel-crusted pollo queso.