The State Fair of Texas really, truly feels like it’s making a comeback since the pandemic began.
The 36 fried-food semifinalists for the State Fair’s 2022 Big Tex Choice Awards are big and bold, sweet and savory. And — hooray! — some of them are super strange. That’s all part of the fun, isn’t it?
The most talked-about dish is bound to be Deep Fried Buc-ee’s, a sweet treat made with Beaver Nuggets. Barbecue makes a great showing as well, with brisket cheese sticks, a brisket biscuit, and all kinds of barbecued meats wrapped in egg rolls or tortillas, then fried. The list also includes a ton of Cajun-inspired dishes. And four of the savory dishes start with the word “Texas.”
Among the sweet treats, some include unexpected twists like the addition of bacon or jalapeños. Two are not even fried foods at all: They’re drinks.
The list of semifinalists was culled from 51 entries and will be slimmed down to 10 Big Tex Choice Awards finalists this summer. Then a panel of judges will declare winners a few weeks before the State Fair of Texas, which runs Sept. 30 through Oct. 23.
The winning foods are like the prom kings and queens of this 24-day fried-food fest, and people from all over the world will go looking for bites of the most talked-about delicacies. Of course, we’ll be there, too; we’ll put out our annual ranking of the best and worst.
Last year’s Big Tex Choice Awards finalists were disappointing, overall. We know State Fair concessionaires can do better, and this list of semifinalists is a great peek into what’s to come in 2022.
Savory fried-food semifinalists at the State Fair of Texas in 2022
- Bayou Bowl: This macaroni and cheese dish comes with shrimp and lump crab coated in garlic-scampi butter. On top, there’s Cajun cream, Andouille sausage and French bread.
- Cajun Lobster Bisque Croquettes: Consider these like lobster-filled tater tots with brie cheese inside, served with lobster soup for dipping.
- Chicharron Explosion Nachos: Pork rinds are doused in Cajun seasoning and topped with queso and chopped beef.
- Crispy Dilly Dog: Anyone remember the Dilly Dog from Texas Rangers games? The State Fair’s dog is a whole dill pickle, cored and filled with a beef hot dog. It’s then fried and served like a corn dog, then drizzled with chipotle mayo.
- Deep Fried BLT: Bacon and cheese get folded into a tortilla, then dipped into the deep fryer. Then it’s cut in half and layered with cold lettuce, tomato and mayo. Comes with a side of garlic Parmesan chips.
- Deep Fried Brisket Cheese Sticks: Just like they sound: mozz and brisket, coated in breading and deep fried. Served with marinara.
- Deep Fried Lasagna: Why haven’t we thought of this before? Each fried lasagna piece is topped with marinara, mozzarella and basil, then served with zucchini fries.
- Deep Fried Texas Country Cookout: Intriguing name — a little like the confounding Deep Fried I-35, no? It’s pork, goat cheese and “special sauce” made into a patty, coated in breadcrumbs and fried. It’s served with coleslaw, potato salad and jalapeño barbecue sauce. Sounds like a picnic.
- Dim Sum Loco Burritos: This fried burrito is stuffed with shredded pork, diced potatoes, onions, bell peppers and pepper Jack cheese. But wait, there’s more, says a press release: “These burritos are then served with charred beer-battered sweet, smokey shishito peppers and a thin, salty meaty broth garnished with cilantro and diced green onions as a dip for both.” Comes with a fortune cookie.
- Fried Charcuterie Board: Yep, this is all the meats and cheeses on a charcuterie board — even green apples — tossed in oil, balsamic vinegar and herbs, then wrapped in a wonton and fried. It comes with goat cheese and a drizzle of hot honey on top.
- Fried Soul Food Eggroll: Picture it: barbecued chicken, collards, and mac and cheese, rolled up and fried.
- Holy Biscuit: It’s a brisket biscuit. The biscuit is layered with smoked brisket and street-corn queso, then topped with bacon and Texas honey. Somewhere in there, there are pickle French fries.
- Shaking Beef Salad: Shaking beef is cut into cubes and mixed with cucumber, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion and soy sauce. Hey, this one isn’t fried!
- Southern Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie Waffle Sliders: Yes, all of those things. It’s made with “a crispy fried chicken filet sandwiched between sweet, thick, and fluffy Belgian waffles stuffed with our heirloom sweet potato pie recipe, which has been handed down three generations. The waffles’ extra deep pockets absorb the warm buttery maple sweet syrups after it is topped with crispy, savory bacon.”
- Texas Hot Bull Ride: Finally, Nashville hot something lands on this list. This time, it’s shrimp, tossed in spicy and sweet “special sauce” and served with a side of ranch.
- Texas Ranch Hog Wings: Pork “wings” are seasoned with spicy ranch salt (a secret), then drizzled with sauce (a secret) and topped with green chives. We’ll have to see this one to understand it.
- Texas Slide: Instead of buns, this has two waffles, between which is chicken, steak, bell peppers, onions and provolone. It comes with a side of syrup. Again: We’re going to have to see this one.
- Texas Twosome: It’s a grilled cheese and Frito pie all in one. YES!
- Turkey Leg Taquito: Shredded turkey leg meat gets mixed with cheese, bacon and jalapeños, then put into a tortilla and fried. It comes with chips, queso and two types of hot sauce.
Sweet fried-food semifinalists at the State Fair of Texas in 2022
- Cha-Cha Chata: A horchata milkshake! It comes topped with cinnamon galletas de gragega and deep-fried morsels of arroz con leche. Sip it out of the churro straw.
- Crunchberry Shortcake: This concessionaire is buying up Cap’n Crunch Crunchberries en masse. The dessert is made with large strawberries, dipped into shortcake batter and deep fried. Crunchberries come on top.
- Deep Fried Buc-ee’s: Deep-fried Beaver Nuggets get dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with caramel. Yeehaw.
- Deep Fried Honey: Giving a nod to deep-fried Coke and deep-fried butter, this new fried food preys upon the novelty of frying a liquidy ingredient. Each fried honey pouch comes with powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar and raw Texas honey.
- Deep-Fried Praline Cheesecake Eggroll: Just like it sounds, this is served with candied praline pecan crumbles on top.
- Deep Fried Rocky Road: Cooks will coat Blue Bell brand Rocky Road ice cream with sweet batter, then fry it and top it with chocolate syrup, sweetened condensed milk, mini marshmallows and chopped cinnamon-glazed nuts.
- Deep Fried Southern Dessert Dumplings: Slices of sweet potato and pecan pie are placed inside wonton wrappers with dark chocolate. Each gets deep fried, then dusted with powdered sugar and — we didn’t see this coming — served with a side of rum-raspberry chipotle sauce for dipping.
- Deep-Fried Strawberry Shortcake Crunch Roll: Pink waffle batter (given its color from strawberry purée) is fried, then topped with cream cheese icing and a mix of strawberry JELL-O, vanilla Oreos and butter. Ahh, butter.
- Doh-Muff: We’ll let them describe this one: “We take a yeast doughnut stuffed with Bavarian cream and coat it in banana nut muffin batter. Then, we drop the doughnut into the fryer. Once it’s deep fried to that perfect golden crisp, we top the creation with pecan butter glaze, fresh bananas, and strawberries.” Is it a doughnut or a muffin? It’s both.
- Fat Elvis: It’s peanut butter and strawberry jelly mixed together, spread on a warm biscuit and then topped with marshmallow fluff, toasted “to give it a golden-brown campfire taste.” Next comes hot bacon and caramelized fried plantains.
- Fried Texas Fruit Salad: Here’s the deal: “We combine chopped cinnamon apples, tart cherries, and luscious peaches with strawberry cream cheese. We then add just a touch of candied jalapeños (the unofficial fruit of Texas) to provide a hint of sweetened zing. All this yummy goodness is balled and rolled in a crunchy batter to excite your taste buds, then deep-fried to a beautiful golden finish.”
- La Bluebonnet: Hold up, y’all, this is another drink. These concessionaires mix citrus juice with blueberries and sugar, then pour it over ice.
- Peanut Butter Paradise: A deep-fried honey bun is injected with caramel and topped with peanut butter. Next comes candy: Reese’s Pieces, Crushed Butterfinger crumbles, peanut butter cups, then caramel, and a “cloud” of powdered sugar.
- Raspberry Chipotle Sopapilla Cheesecake: A cream cheese filling gets topped with sweet raspberry glaze and then a sugar-coated topping. It comes with raspberry compote, whipped topping, chopped pecans and the option of candied jalapeños. (Get ‘em.)
- Smoked Bacon-Wrapped Cookie Dough Balls: “If it’s even possible, we found a way to make chocolate chip cookies even better,” the concessionaire alleges. Each chocolate chip cookie dough ball is wrapped in bacon, then served with smoked chocolate dipping sauce.
- The Ultimate Brookie Monster: Chocolate chip cookies are married with Oreos and marshmallows, then covered in brownie batter, then deep fried. Eat it with vanilla ice cream if you dare.
- Triple Lemon Bliss: This puckery dessert is made with flash-fried ladyfingers and sweet lemon curd filling. That gets topped with lemon pound cake, more ladyfingers and a lemon cream cheese filling.
Wow, are you feeling stuffed? We sure are.
Check dallasnews.com/food all summer and we’ll have details on which of these are named finalists and winners.