The State Fair of Texas is one of the biggest, longest-running state fairs of the United States. It's steeped in tradition, from its livestock competitions to its architecturally significant Art Deco grounds. But perhaps the most important part of the Texas State Fair? Its role as America's fried food mecca.
The fair's iconic fried item is the Fletcher's Corn Dog. The origins of the corn dog are hotly contested, but the Fletcher family claims to have been the first to introduce the dogs at the fair back in the late 1930s. Fair vendors have been frying just about everything but the kitchen sink ever since.
In 2005, the fair starting hosting the Big Tex Taste Awards — a formal competition that ranks the fried fare that's new to the park every year. This year, we did our own taste test. Here are the results.
Fried Thanksgiving Dinner
Thanksgiving in a ball? Yeah, Thanksgiving in a ball. This is stuffing mixed with turkey dipped in cream corn, rolled into a little round package, fried, and served with gravy. It won the Big Tex award for most creative this year, because it is pure genius.
Fried Chicken and Waffles
This was one of the best. As you can guess, it's the perfect amalgam of sweet and savoury. Chicken plus waffles plus a deep frier? There's nothing not to like.
Fried Spaghetti and Meatballs
This softball-sized dish is exactly what you'd expect if your Italian grandmother dropped her signature spaghetti and meatballs in a deep frier. Which is to say, GD delicious.
Nutella might be the most perfect condiment. Bread it and deep fry it, and it transforms into a hazelnut and chocolate croissant. Also, it will probably give you diabetes.
Fried King Ranch Chicken
This Texas-shaped dish is based on a casserole served for ages by Southern mums. Chicken and cheese are married with peppers and, of course, dropped in the frier. Sure, it's weird, but it doesn't make it any less delightful.
Fried Grilled Cheese
If fried grilled cheese didn't have the nutritional value of fried grilled cheese, we'd be inclined to eat one on the daily.
Deep Fried Chocolate Chip Burrito
Wrap chocolate chip cookie dough into a burrito and fry that baby up! It's delicious. And it was obviously invented by someone who was stoned as hell, because that is pretty much the only explanation for the existence of this gut-busting burrito.
Deep Fried Cuban Roll
Now this flaky, fried mish-mash of pork shoulder, ham, and swiss cheese was delectable. And greasy as all get out. This little guy was the overall winner in the Big Tex awards for 2013. Rightfully so!
Texas Fried Fireball
Here we have fried pimento cheese. It was good, it was greasy, but it was disappointingly small.
You've been to a diner somewhere in the south, so you've had chicken-fried steak. But you haven't had chicken-fried meatloaf. It's the same idea, similar taste, but it's so much meatier. By this point in our taste test, we were legitimately worried about going into cardiac arrest. Yet we pushed forward.
Fried Millionaire Pie
You're really covering all your food groups when you eat a fried millionaire pie: cream cheese for dairy, pineapple for fruit, pecans for protein, and breading for your grains. This is last meal-calibre stuff.
There's one thing we didn't try because it just sounded a little too unappetising. That's the spicy Spam empanadas — yes, that Spam. And there was some fair fare we missed, simply because we were running a serious risk of entering diabetic coma — like the fried BBQ wontons (pulled pork in a wonton and fried) and the deep fried shrimp and grits.
But there's always next year. And who knows what kind of crazy crap vendors will be dropping in the deep frier by then?