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Funnel Cake Beer And Fried Shrimp Win State Fair Of Texas' New Food Contest

State Fair of Texas
Fried Gulf Shrimp Boil won one of two Big Tex Choice Awards Monday morning at the State Fair of Texas.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, what’s the fairest fair food of them all?

It’s Fried Gulf Shrimp Boil and Funnel Cake Ale.

Those new fair foods won top honors Monday morning at the State Fair of Texas’ 10th annual Big Tex Choice Awards.

Fried Gulf Shrimp Boil won best taste and Funnel Cake Ale won most creative.

They were among eight finalists for the Big Tex Choice Awards, which honors the top new foods at the fair. The winning vendors take home a golden Big Tex statuette – and guaranteed lines at their food booths come fair time.

Fried Gulf Shrimp Boil

What is it? A shrimp boil rolled into a ball, dusted with fish fry, and fried. Baby gulf shrimp, diced red potatoes, onion, lemon, and seasoning are formed around a cocktail shrimp, dusted and fried with the tail sticking out for a handle. Served with a remoulade sauce.

Who made it? Clint Probst

Credit State Fair of Texas
Fried Gulf Shrimp Boil

Original State Fair Brew – Funnel Cake Ale

What is it? Beer with the essence of that State Fair classic – funnel cake. “Brewed to be ready and crisp, with just the right amount of toastiness and sweetness, finishing with delicate notes of natural vanilla.” You can add powdered sugar to the rim of your glass. Must be 21 or older (obviously).

Who made it? Justin Martinez

Credit State Fair of Texas
Funnel cake ale won most creative at the Big Tex Choice Awards Monday morning.

The scene from the contest

KERA's Dianna Douglas was at the fair this morning and filed this report:

The new foods include a battered and deep fried blueberry muffin called the Texas Bluebonnet, a deep fried loaded baked potato, and fried Sriracha balls. Their creator, Mark Zable, won the competition a few years ago with his deep fried beer. He knows what kind of business boost he could expect from winning.  

“If I win, I would estimate around 200,000 balls -- and if I don’t win, I’ll do 40,000 balls,” he said.

Zable’s father opened the Belgian waffle concession stand at the State Fair more than 50 years ago.

“I grew up sleeping under the counters as an infant,” he said. 

But this is not a competition that’s won on nostalgia. So while the judges took their seats, the contestants fired up their deep fryers.

Local radio deejay Hawkeye led the crowd and judges through a heart-stopping tasting, including fried shrimp.

“I love me a good shrimp boil!” said judge Tiffany Derry, a local chef.

Each of the finalists got a trophy with a gold fry basket for their creativity and work. The two winners get a golden statue of Big Tex.

After an hour of sampling, the judges wiped off their faces and knew they had tasted the best.   

The creator of the fried shrimp boil, Clint Probst, got the inspiration from a recent trip to New Orleans. He’s a longtime staple at the State Fair, and at other festivals around town. He was recently showing off his chicken fried meatloaf on the TV show “Deep Fried Masters.”

As the winner of fair’s best tasting award, fryers in his booth will be working nonstop when the fair opens at the end of September.

“There’s so much creativity in this competition that I think the fact that most of the food is fried is secondary to the fact that most of the food is good,” Probst said.

The winner for most creative new food this year wasn’t actually fried. Justin Martinez brewed a special beer for the State Fair – funnel cake ale. It’s poured into a glass with the rim dipped in powdered sugar.

“I was worried about that at first, but it was really smooth, really good,” Martinez said. “I never thought sugar and beer would go together.”

Judge Donovan Lewis said he doesn’t care if this State Fair food contest seems odd to an outsider.

“If you’re not into it, that fine,” he says.  

For every molecular gastronomist sipping nitrogen cocktails, there are baskets and baskets of deep fried brisket tacos and fried pie with plenty of hungry fans. 

Here are the other six finalists:

Chicken Fried Loaded Baked Potato

What is it? A baked potato loaded with butter, bacon, and cheddar cheese, are coated and battered with a spices and flour. Served with ranch dipping sauce.

Who made it? Butch Benavides

Credit State Fair of Texas
Chicken Fried Loaded Baked Potato

Deep Fried Texas Bluebonnet

What is it? A blueberry muffin with scone-style batter that’s stuffed with cream cheese, blueberries and white chocolate. It is baked and deep fried. Topped off with whipped cream, chopped white chocolate, powdered sugar, blueberries, and a blueberry glaze.

Who made it? Isaac Rousso

Credit State Fair of Texas
Deep Fried Texas Bluebonnet

Fried Sriracha Balls

What is it? Shredded chicken, corn, green chilies, tomatoes, and Sriracha hot sauce are formed into balls and coated with tortilla chips. It’s flash-fried. If you like your food extra hot, extra Sriracha is available.

Who made it? Mark Zable

Credit State Fair of Texas
Fried Sriracha Balls

Fried Sweet Texas

What is it? Pie dough is filled with pecan pie, peach cobbler and buttermilk pie. It’s deep-fried, and then served with Blue Bell vanilla ice cream.

Who made it? Justin Martinez

Credit State Fair of Texas
Fried Sweet Texas

Twisted Texas Tacos

What is it? Texas beef brisket is dipped in a barbecue-spiced buttermilk batter and fried. Served in a tortilla and layered with a Mexican cheese blend, fried okra, tri-color slaw and accented with poblano and sweet pepper corn. Served with country gravy and chili.

Who made it? Christi Erpillo

Credit State Fair of Texas
Twisted Texas Tacos

Deep Fried "Breakfast for Dinner"

What is it? A 10-inch flour tortilla is stuffed with eight breakfast items – scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage, bacon, potatoes, ham, onion, cheddar cheese and cinnamon roll bits. It’s deep-fried and served with gravy, salsa and a pico-queso dip.

Who made it? Edna Sutton and Tom Grace

Credit State Fair of Texas
Deep Fried "Breakfast For Dinner"

Through the years

Explore past years of Big Tex Choice Awards -- fried butter, fried peaches, fried beer, oh my! -- here.

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