Big Tex will be served up all fried, spicy and boozy this fall.
The State Fair of Texas on Monday morning announced the eight finalists vying for the annual Big Tex Choice Awards, which honors the top new foods at the fair.
The fair's long, proud tradition of frying every food in sight will continue this fall.
On the menu ...
At this year’s fair, start with a fried breakfast burrito.
Then, for lunch, how about a fried brisket taco? Or a chicken-fried baked potato? Fried shrimp, perhaps?
Spice things up with spicy Sriracha chicken balls.
For dessert, try a fried bluebonnet -- it's actually a blueberry muffin -- or a fried combo of pecan pie/peach cobbler/buttermilk pie.
And wash it all down with something that’s not fried: funnel cake beer.
Fry it, you'll like it!
All of the foods are fried this year – except for the beer.
Technically, foods don’t need to be fried in order to be eligible. But almost all of the winners through the years have been fried. (Remember these greatest hits: Fried cookie dough? Fried butter? Fried Coke? Fried peanut butter and jelly? Fried peaches and cream? Fried bacon cinnamon roll? We rest our case.)
Two winners will be named on Labor Day: best taste and most creative.
Winners are guaranteed tons of publicity – and long lines at their food booths. That's sure to guarantee strong sales.
This year marks the 10th year of the Big Tex Choice awards.
Regardless of who wins, all of the foods will be on sale when the fair starts Sept. 26. This year’s theme: Deep in the Heart of Texans.
Grab your cholesterol medication and don’t share this list with your doctor.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
State Fair scholar chimes in
Eric Aasen, KERA’s resident State Fair scholar, has covered the State Fair of Texas for several years and offers up his insight on the dishes:
- What will generate buzz? After 10 years of the Big Tex Choice Awards, the challenge is to find buzzworthy items that will generate publicity and tempt fairgoers’ taste buds. The Fried Sriracha Balls rides the Sriracha trend – a hot sauce that’s become super popular in recent years.
- Booze has made the list before – the deep-fried frozen margarita back in 2010 -- but beer that tastes like funnel cake is a fun twist.
- Sometimes, you just need a winning title. The Deep Fried Texas Bluebonnet is a very creative name and resonates with wildflower-loving Texans. Of course, the fair isn’t frying flowers. It’s a fried blueberry muffin.
- It’s hard to get on the list even once in a year, much less twice. But Justin Martinez made the list twice this year – with the deep fried pie combo (Fried Sweet Texas) and the funnel cake ale. Martinez won last year’s most creative award for Fried Thanksgiving Dinner, which featured stuffing and turkey rolled in a ball and dipped in cream corn and corn meal and fried. He also won in 2011 for fried bubblegum.
- Some heavy hitters on the State Fair food scene are back on the list. They include Mark Zable, who created fried Sriracha balls. He won “most creative” in 2010 with Fried Beer, a beer-filled ravioli-shaped dough pocket. His family has sold Belgian waffles at the fair for 50 years. And there’s Christi Erpillo with her Twisted Texas Tacos. She won “best taste” in 2009 for Deep Fried Peaches and Cream. Her family has operated the Dock restaurant at the fair for decades. Credit her mom, Wanda Winter, for introducing funnel cake to State Fair crowds in the early '80s.
Through the years
Explore past years of Big Tex Choice Awards -- fried butter, fried peaches, fried beer, oh my! -- here.