DALLAS — Summer is flying by, and fall will be here before you know it. And with the arrival of the fall comes the return of the State Fair of Texas after it went on a pandemic-hiatus last year.
With just 71 days to go before the Fair begins, vendors are getting ready, whipping up their latest concoctions to entice fairgoers. There are 32 semi-finalists who have been named to moved forward in the annual Big Texas Choice Awards food competition, with 19 savory dishes and 13 sweet.
To get this far, they had to convince the judges just like they would a fairgoer to choose their dish.
"Judges based their choices solely on which food name, photo, and description looks and sounds the most appealing to their personal palette," a news release from the Fair explained.
The concessionaires are all now one step closer to the main competition, where they'll look to win of three titles: Best Taste - Savory, Best Taste - Sweet, and Most Creative.
The judges will now, over the next few weeks, decide if the dishes are just as delicious as their descriptions. Finalists will be announced by mid-August before the State Fair starts on Sept. 24. It runs through Oct. 17.
So without further ado, here are the dishes that have caught the judges' eyes so far, described in their creators' own words:
Savory State Fair of Texas Semi-Finalists
Bacon Jam Corn Bombs
Crispy, savory, sweet – with a little bit of heat! Warm bacon jam is ladled over crispy corn hushpuppies, then complimented with a drizzle of ranch dressing and topped with homemade candied jalapeños. This bursting-with-flavor shareable treat is sure to become a State Fair favorite.
Country Fried Shrimp Grits
Grits like you have never tasted before! Deliciously rich cooked grits are infused with shrimp and cheese, formed into squares, then dipped in a light egg wash and covered with a homemade batter, deep fried to perfection. To top it off, this delicious dish is then covered with a mouthwatering shrimp and crawfish sauce. A taste so good, you'll come back for more.
Crawfish Étouffée Stuffed Turkey Leg
This new Fair food comes from an old recipe that was a Louisiana favorite and brings your taste buds to life after just the first bite. We begin with a tried-and-true favorite, a slow smoked extra-large turkey leg. This juicy, tender leg is smoked extra-long to allow the meat to fall off the bone. After the smoked turkey is at its most tender, we stuff the middle with savory crawfish etouffee. The crawfish étouffée is also cooked a long time to bring the flavors of the "Cajun Trinity" to its fullest flavor. We serve with a side of rice, so you do not miss out on any of the amazing flavors of the sauce. Turkey Legs have never been so amazingly savory. 2021 is going to be the best of the best at the State Fair of Texas, and stuffed turkey legs will be leading the way.
Crispy Crazy Corn
Sweet whole kernel corn is individually battered, fried, and dashed with our secret seasoning. These crispy little gold nuggets alone make a great snack, but the heat turns up a notch when we add slowed-smoked pulled pork, topped with a tangy pineapple slaw, kissed with a drizzle of freshly made jalapeño crema and a generous sprinkle of fresh cilantro. It’s a crunchy, sweet, savory, tangy flavor party that’s crazy good.
The Texas heat can't compete with Dallas Hot! A State Fair classic is reimagined to unveil a tasty union that's hearty, cheesy, and packed with heat. A smoked turkey frank is dunked in a fiery seasoned batter and deep fried, then smothered with rich and creamy mac and cheese. It is topped with fried jalapeños and then drizzled with Cholula® for flavor that bites back!
Deep Fried I-35
Our Deep Fried I-35 is a deep-fried Texas road trip on a plate! We start out in Parker County, Texas, which is famous for its peaches. Next, we move down I-35 to West, Texas, where we stop and pick up a dozen of our favorite kolaches. We can never decide which type of kolaches we like more – sweet or savory – always such a dilemma. The only solution? Sweet AND Savory. Next, we head south to Dublin, Texas...famous for, you guessed it, Dr Pepper®. After a few hours of driving and a few hours of snacking on I-35 treats, we finally arrive in Austin, Texas, home of some of the best smoked brisket in the world. We combine these ingredients into a sweet and savory decadent tribute to the Texas road trip...the Deep Fried I-35! First, we fry up our kolache dough, leaving a divot in the center for our filling. We top our fried kolache with smoked beef brisket. Our peach juice combines with the Dr Pepper® to make a sweet and tangy BBQ glaze which we drizzle over our brisket kolache. We garnish this roadworthy concoction with peach slices and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Voila, y'all!
Deep Fried Seafood Gumbo Balls
Using a family recipe that has been handed down four generations, the base is a dark, rich, and savory roux that represents the true essence of New Orleans. The balls are then loaded with Gulf Coast shrimp, stewed chicken, blue crab meat, and andouille sausage. The balls are then rolled in our saltine cracker and breadcrumb batter, then fried, creating an explosion of flavor. The balls are served with a side of dark gumbo roux sauce for your dipping pleasure and topped with chicken fried okra spears. The dish will be served with a small bottle of hot sauce and a package of saltine crackers.
Deep Fried Shrimp Étouffée
If you’re looking for a concessionaire’s twist on a southern classic – this is it! Deep Fried Shrimp Étouffée is our twist on a seafood classic! A deep-fried dumpling filled with piping hot rice and juicy house seasoned shrimp is smothered in onion, celery, tomatoes, green peppers, and cheese. The fried treat is served with creole mustard or chipotle ranch. Looking for a kick? Add our favorite southern style hot sauce on the side!
Frozen Ranch Water
One of the most popular cocktails in Texas is Ranch Water – a simple cocktail consisting of silver tequila, Topo Chico®, and fresh lime. The Original Frozen Ranch Water is sure to be most popular new adult beverage offered at the State Fair of Texas this year. Margaritas are between 700-1,000 calories – a Frozen Ranch Water has only a quarter of those calories and tastes just as great. Crisp and refreshing, it’s the perfect companion for sunny warm days at the State Fair for those over 21 years of age. The Original Frozen Ranch Water is our own unique recipe with a wine-based tequila that can be sold at the State Fair. We will also be offering flavored toppers such as passion fruit, paloma, raspberry, and watermelon for those that want to sweeten it up.
This fantastic sandwich brings the Hawaiian luau feast into one amazing bite. We begin this incredible food experience with a soft Hawaiian bun, introducing a honey mustard slaw as the first layer. We continue stacking slow roasted pork infused with a hint of smoke and tropical mango flavor. We take the island favorite Spam and lightly fry it, followed by a drizzle of Hawaiian teriyaki sauce on top. The pineapple rings that are beginning to caramelize in the fryer are taken out and glazed in honey with just a slight hint of heat. The explosion of flavors – sweet and savory combined with the soft Hawaiian bread – is an experience that will make you come back for more. This Big Kahuna will become an instant must-have each year you visit the State Fair of Texas. It's that good! Aloha, y'all!
Lobster Corn Dog
Everybody comes to the State Fair of Texas for a corndog, right? But have you ever had a Lobster Corn Dog? This unique, one-of-a-kind item will fulfill both your corndog and fancy tastebuds. First, we take a lobster cake, bread it, and baste it in the freshest of cornbread batter. Then, we deep fry it until golden and serve with a fresh Remoulade for dipping. Who knew that you could get lobster with your corn dog?
Lucky Duck Dumplin'
A delectable pastry filled with a delicious combination of rich, fluffy cream cheese, blended with succulent duck bacon and delicately roasted sweet corn, with a sprinkling of herbs and spices. These delicately filled dumplings are dropped into the deep fryer until golden-brown and fried to crispy perfection! Both crunchy on the outside and satisfyingly creamy on the inside, with a pleasing balance of salty and sweet that is sure to tickle the taste buds. Three Lucky Duck Dumplin's are served alongside a sweet and gently spicy Thai chili glaze for dipping, finished with a sprinkling of fresh basil and nestled in a small hand-held tray, making it the perfect indulgent snack while enjoying the State Fair of Texas!
This new Fair favorite starts with Texas best smoked sausage at the base of this shot. We wrap the sausage with delicious hickory smoked bacon which forms a tiny bowl, and this savory tastebud-teaser is filled with everyone’s favorite – creamy mac and cheese. We sprinkle the outside with a secret sweet, spicy BBQ rub to finalize this perfect Fair-food-to-share item. Talk about a party in your mouth!
Taking bold Takis Fuego chips with their distinctive rolled shape, we cover the chips with melted cheese, savory refried beans, and a dollop of sour cream. We top the chips with fresh pico de gallo, cilantro, and an insatiable serrano pepper for an added burst of heat. Takis Locos – taste the fire!
Texas BBQ Brisket Banh Mi
Texas BBQ Brisket Banh Mi is served on a lightly toasted Vietnamese baguette that is topped with chopped smoked brisket, lightly coated in our BBQ sauce, along with cilantro, cucumber and homemade pickled daikon radish and carrots. Honey siracha aioli, hoisin sauce, and fresh jalapeño slices are served on the side.
Texas Chicken Fried Steak Flauta Basket
What is more Texan than a chicken fried steak sandwich? A chicken fried steak sandwich rolled up in a flour tortilla and deep fried! We took all the fixings of this Texas culinary icon and made it more Texan (if possible) and portable! First, we start with our secret tangy, spicy sauce and generously spread it over a flour tortilla. Next, we add crunchy chicken fried steak fingers, finely shredded lettuce, juicy tomatoes and hamburger dill pickle chips, and roll it up – burrito style. After a quick dip in the fryer, it emerges perfectly crunchy and golden-brown. Cut in half, it is served with a side of zesty curly fries sprinkled with our house seasonings and the holy grail of Texas dipping sauces, ranch dressing – but our secret recipe. Each bite is a taste of true TEXAS flavor. Served with extra steak fingers to enjoy that creamy deliciousness. Not on a stick but still the perfect strolling Fair food!
Texas Easter Eggs
Rejuvenate the excitement you experienced as a kid when you anticipated hunting for Easter eggs. The only problem is (if they were real eggs) you probably never ate what was inside. Texas Easter Eggs will change all of that. They will be a little easier to find, and when you do – wow, will you be glad you did! These mildly spicy, creamy, cheddar cheesy Deep Fried Eggs will make you wish you had an Easter basket full of them to take home. While they are not actual eggs from a chicken, they are filled with meats, spices, cheeses, peppers, and all things Texas, shaped like an egg, decorated with a savory (Easter colored) ranch sauce, breaded, deep fried, and served in our special Texas Easter Egg carton with a perfect finishing dipping sauce.
Texas Fried Surf and Turf
Our Texas Fried Surf and Turf brings a fine dining vibe to the State Fair of Texas. Tender filet mignon medallions are hand-cut and filled with chunks of Langostino Lobster. A slice of fresh jalapeño inside gives this savory dish a Texas crunch and kick. The medallions are rolled with the delicious lobster and jalapeño inside and then wrapped with a slice of hickory smoked bacon to hold it all together. There is no breading or batter on our Texas Fried Surf and Turf – we fry them until a crispy shell of fried bacon forms with juicy medium-well steak and rich chunks of lobster inside. Two Texas Fried Surf and Turf medallions are served with our tempura fried asparagus on the side. This delectable delicacy is drizzled with our horseradish hollandaise sauce – a creamy concoctions with a mild kick to top things off!
Twice-Fried Albondigas (Mexican Meatballs)
Twice-Fried Albondigas is a wonderful Mexican meatball with a twist on traditional Mexican flavors. Spiced beef is rolled with lightly browned rice, chopped vegetables and aromatic seasonings, rendering one juicy, tasty meatball. First it is deep-fried, then carefully battered, followed by a bread crumb coating, making it ready to fry again to a golden perfection. Biting into an Albondiga will be a culinary surprise of flavors reminiscent of our abuelitas’ kitchens. This delightful Albondiga will be served on top of a hearty tomato-based-infused sauce. Rich in flavor with an afterbite, this dish will give you a swift kick and make you yearn for more. Hold your fire, wait a minute, we are not done! Topping off this burst of flavors will be a drizzle of Crema Mexicana and a sprinkle of cotija queso. Buen Provecho!
Sweet State Fair of Texas Semi-Finalists
This confectionary delight has the rich, buttery, crunchy, sweet deliciousness of an old-fashion peanut brittle. We have, however, replaced the peanuts with the smokey goodness of Texas brisket. This addictively sweet yet savory treat finishes with a satisfying hint of heat.
Deep Fried Pancakes
It's pancakes like you've never had them before! These are just like homemade individual bite-size pancakes, but every bite is the best part of these pancakes. These fresh-from-the-fryer hotcakes come with your choice of our one-of-a-kind homemade syrups: maple butter, fresh blueberry sauce, or our original pecan butter syrup. So good, you'll never want pancakes any other way!
Deep Fried PB & Razbrûlée
This is the shabby chic of fair foods! The seamless marriage of an after-school kid food (PB&J) and that special dessert you sometimes get at anniversary dinners at 5-star restaurants as an adult (crème brûlée). The two are melded together perfectly to blend different times of your life all in one unforgettable food experience. A deep-fried peanut butter sandwich pocket is topped with a thick and creamy vanilla creme with a turbinado sugar heavy sprinkling and broiled and caramelized to a hard-shell top. This Deep Fried PB & Razbrûlée is then dolloped with a perfect helping of mixed berries to complete the beautifully delicious dessert!
Deep Fried Peach Cobbler Soul Rolls
Our twist on a true southern staple around the holidays – but our version is on the go! Peach Cobbler Soul Rolls are filled with juicy sweet peaches that bathe in butter and our housed spiced sugar mixture before being rolled into an egg roll and deep-fried. It is topped with a generous amount of cinnamon sugar and served with a side of Blue Bell Ice Cream® if you desire.
Deep Fried Ritz
We take a rich, buttery flavored Ritz cracker, layer with a luscious strawberry-swirled cream cheese filling, dipped in batter, and deep-fried until golden brown. This deep-fried creation is topped with fudgy chocolate glaze and Ritz cracker-powdered sugar crumble with the option of a fresh strawberry topping. Everything tastes great when it's deep fried on a Ritz!
Deep Fried Toffee
Using a 2019 State Fair of Texas award-winning Milk Chocolate Toffee Square, this tasty concoction wraps the toffee square in a flakey biscuit bite and is then deep-fried. Garnished with powdered sugar bringing out the contrast of confection sugar with milk chocolate.
Deep Fried Halloween
Our trick-or-treat experience starts with a delicious large chewy pretzel that is dropped in the fryer. As it becomes golden brown, we quickly bathe it in candy corn syrup, followed by some rainbow sprinkles and powdered sugar. Now the fun begins – piping in orange and white buttercream icing, then stacking some of our most favorite Halloween candies, like M&M’s®, Reese Pieces, Mini-Twix®, Oreo cookie crumbles, and candy corn just to name a few. Topped with a delicious marshmallow whip cream and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup as the crown, we put the final touches of Hershey’s chocolate syrup caramel sauce and candy corn drizzle on this beautiful desert.
Fried Capirotada (Mexican Bread Pudding)
Our family matriarch often made this family-favorite dessert, Capirotada. Combining traditional holiday flavors well-known to Mexican families, it is a lip-smacking bread pudding that is only described as sweet, savory, and scrumptious. Bread is layered with a mixture of two shredded cheeses sprinkled over a piloncillo (unrefined whole cane sugar) syrup with raisins. Delectable aromatic spices are poured over the mixture, then baked. The resulting pudding is battered and fried, then crowned with whipped topping covered with a drizzle of dulce de leche. A shake of fresh ground cinnamon and bright sprinkles readies the dessert for your first bite. Your tastebuds will wonder why you have never tasted this time-honored dessert before.
Fried Toffee Coffee Crunch Cake
This smartly paired, time-tested duo is a harmonious treat for your tastebuds! We start with lightly glazed, old fashioned cake donuts and break them into chunks, highlighting their firm, slightly crunchy exterior, and soft cakelike interior. Next, we add a generous scoop of buttery baking morsels flavored with rich English toffee and crunchy almonds and the mixture is blended with a velvety custard. The donut’s cracked, craggy surface absorbs the creamy custard, creating a bread pudding-like consistency which is set in a ring mold. The cakes are dipped in an egg product and covered in panko and vanilla cookie crumbs, then quickly fried to a golden brown with a crunchy exterior and a gooey butter cake center! Alternatively, you might also get bites of little rivers or crunchy nuggets of toffee. It is served on a plate with a light dusting of powdered sugar and sprinkled with more toffee bits and a dollop of trendy, frothy mocha coffee whipped cream. Regular whipped cream is available for non-coffee drinkers (but we encourage you to try the mocha cream - everyone knows donuts go with coffee!). It is topped off with a miniature chocolate covered toffee bar to fancy it up!
Let's face it, we've all gone a little bananas in the past 18 months. But your patience is about to be rewarded. We took a perfect, delicious banana, and did the only thing that makes sense. We rolled it in fresh funnel cake batter and deep fried it to a crispy, golden brown. We then topped it with a heaping dollop of whipped cream and finished our masterpiece with a hefty drizzle of chocolate and peanut butter sauces. You will go bananas over this scrumptious treat, which is sure to become a State Fair of Texas favorite!
Southern Fried Lemon Ice Box Pie Balls
A pie ball, hand wrapped in a pâte sucrée dough, is infused with graham crackers, lemon zest, and brown sugar. The filling is our secret family recipe for lemon ice box pies. The pie balls are then battered in our chicken fry, and flash fried to create a golden flaky crust. Then, we sprinkle the fried pie balls with our sweet fairy dust, made of honey butter powder and confection sugar. After that, we top the balls with dollops of Chantilly cream and garnish them with a lemon graham cracker crumble, lemon zest, and edible gold glitter. One of our family's favorite desserts, made with a Big Tex twist!
Texas Pumpkin Poke Cake
Your fall favorite with Texas flair! A Texas-shaped, decadent pumpkin cake with a finger-licking, gooey vanilla glaze, silky caramel, topped with fluffy whipped cream, and lightly sprinkled with secret spice.
Y'all will want to go home with the Armadillo Cookie Butter Ice Cream Sandwich! It is a made-from-scratch cookie butter semifreddo – an Italian take on ice cream that means semi-frozen. The treat is drizzled with cookie butter and sandwiched between two deep fried Armadillo-shaped cookies that are made with a branding iron. Finally, it is dusted with buttery sugar. Absolutely a velvety cream delight!