Deep-fried foods from pickles to okra hold a hallowed place in Southern food culture, and State Fairs in the region have their priorities straight. The fairs aren't just places to go on Saturday afternoons: They're culinary competitions based around who can deep-fry the craziest item. While you’ve likely heard of some of the concoctions (and you’re still trying to wrap your head and tastebuds around them), clever chefs down South keep on innovating, throwing everything from butter to bubblegum into a frier. Sure, Southerners like me love their foods crispy-and-delicious, but these inventions definitely take the cake. Or, should we say, the blue ribbon?
1. Deep-fried butter
While many fairs offer a stick of butter deep-fried—yes, honestly, just a stick of butter—the idea became famous at the State Fair of Texas. So that's where the credit should go, but admittedly it was the non-Southern state of Iowa that raised the bar and proved some things are bigger outside of Texas: There, State Fair wizards turned fried butter into a dessert, dipping the stick into a cinnamon honey batter…and then deep-frying it and coating it in sugar.
2. Deep-fried beer ravioli
There’s homemade Italian pasta… and then there’s the Southern version. Imagine this: Make pretzel-like dough. Cut it into strips to make ravioli. Decide the filling will be your go-to "cold one." And then last—and definitely not least—deep-fry it for about 20 seconds. You had to be 21 or older to purchase this deep-fried dish at the State Fair in Texas in 2010, and plenty got downed. Unsurprisingly, since it involved deep-frying a liquid and all, it won the Most Creative Award at the fair.
3. Deep-fried ice cream burger
Craving a burger as you walk around the fair? Or maybe ice cream instead, since it’s so hot out? The Florida State Fair has the answer: Skip the meat and make the burger with deep-fried ice cream instead. This savory-sweet mash-up is made of two pieces of toasted bun with a pickle, lettuce, tomato, bacon and cheese… and a scoop of ice cream that’s coated in cinnamon and cornflakes and deep fried for about 15 or so seconds.
4. Deep-fried salsa
Forget guacamole: At the 2011 State Fair in Texas, you could dip your chips in deep-fried salsa, made with spicy jalapenos, garlic, chopped tomatoes, onion and peppers and then topped with tortilla chips. The mix then got deep-fried and served with queso. (Sounds like it’d go mighty well with that deep-fried beer, doesn’t it?)
5. Deep-fried bubblegum
It’s an old wives' tale that swallowing your bubble gum will give you seven years of bad luck, but we think this dish at the Texas State Fair is an exception. Why? Because, okay, technically speaking, it’s not actually bubblegum, but rather, bubblegum-flavored marshmallows that have been dipped in batter, deep-fried and topped with icing and powdered sugar. Surely braving this thing has got to bring you seven years of good luck.
6. Fried sugar cubes
Another ingenious booth at the Texas State Fair decided to skip the complicated desserts and focus on the most essential ingredient: sugar. Yep, just sugar. They took sugar cubes and double-dipped them in chocolate or vanilla batter before deep-frying them and drizzling the results in chocolate, caramel and fruit sauces.
7. Fried bacon cinnamon roll
Voted Most Creative at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas, this salty and sweet creation takes a fresh-baked cinnamon roll and dips it in pancake batter. Then the whole thing gets rolled in fried bacon before going into the deep fryer and getting a final dusting of powdered sugar. One thing's for sure: You'd better have a Texas-size appetite to finish this one.
8. Deep fried red velvet cupcakes
If red velvet is your go-to cake, you might want to try your hand at this State Fair of Texas invention. There, red velvet cupcakes got stuffed with cream cheese frosting, deep-fried, frosted on the outside, and then topped with, what else, a boneless chicken wing.
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