Fried food ‘fairs’ well

By Carmina Tiscareño 

Media/Fashion Editor 

Photos by Carmina Tiscareño and Kathy Tran | The Fried Sriracha Balls are sure to kick up the heat at this year’s state fair.
Photos by Carmina Tiscareño and Kathy Tran | The Fried
Sriracha Balls are sure to kick up the heat at this year’s state

In the Tower Building of Fair Park, Rudy Martinez watched over the concession workers preparing the Fried Sweet Texas dessert, making sure none of the judges burned their mouths on the decadent dessert of pecan pie, peach cobbler and buttermilk pie all blended together and deep fried.

After the winner for Best Taste and Most Creative were announced, a line of more than 200 people formed along the inside perimeter of the building. The 10th annual Big Tex Choice Awards took place Sept. 1. In past years, people from the media were allowed to taste the finalist food contenders before anyone else. 

This year, however, tickets were on sale to the general public. Loyal State Fair fans paid $100 to attend the awards and try the food; they also got a free Big Tex Choice Awards T-shirt, which some wore proudly throughout the event.

Event emcee Mark “Hawkeye” Louis from 96.3 KSCS-FM said eight innovative finalists made the list this year. The judges, charged with deciding the two winners, sat at a table in front of the attendees, so the crowd could see their reactions as they tried the food. The judges included Top Chef alumna Tiffany Derry, Texas Monthly Magazine Barbecue Editor Daniel Vaughn, local fashion blogger Cynthia Snoot, Donovan Lewis from BaD Radio, and the State Fair fan who won the video contest, Tim Bennett.

The Fried Gulf Shrimp Boil, created by Clint Probst, who was also a 2013 finalist, won Best Taste. Probst said the dish was a family creation and that they brainstormed during a road trip. He said, “Unusually, the first tasting worked perfectly; all we ever had to adjust was the seasoning.” The shrimp boil includes shrimp, diced red potatoes, onion, lemon and seasonings rolled into a ball and then fried, with the tail of the shrimp sticking out as a handle. This dish also comes with a side of rémoulade sauce.

The Most Creative award went to the Funnel Cake Ale (Original State Fair Brew) created by Justin Martinez, who also entered the Fried Sweet Texas dessert. The Funnel Cake Ale is served in a cup with a rim lined with powdered sugar to add some extra sweetness.

Vaughn downed his drink as soon as he got it and then asked for a second cup. Snoot, who said she is not a beer person, said she liked the Funnel Cake Ale a lot. The ale has the crisp, sweet taste of funnel cake, except one can drink this and conveniently carry it while in line for more fried goodness.

Some of the other food options that were named finalists for the Big Tex Choice Awards included: the Chicken Fried Loaded Baked Potato, Deep Fried Breakfast for Dinner, Deep Fried Texas Bluebonnet, Fried Sriracha Balls, Fried Sweet Texas and Texas Twisted Tacos.

Throughout the tasting process, the judges complimented every finalist with positive feedback. Snoot said, “You get a big bang for your buck” with the Twisted Texas Tacos. The tacos combine food groups including barbecue, Tex-Mex, chili and chicken fried. It tasted chilled and fresh like a salad, with all those food groups on a flour tortilla resembling a wrap.

Things got a bit heated when the judges tried the Fried Sriracha Balls, which tasted similar to shredded chicken bathed in chipotle sauce. Lewis said the Sriracha Balls “packed some heat” as he fanned his mouth with his hand after taking a few bites. Derry replied to Lewis’ comment with playful sass in her voice. “Sriracha balls are supposed to be spicy,” she said.

This year’s theme for the State Fair of Texas is “Deep in the Heart of Texans.” The fair takes place Sept. 26 – Oct. 19 at Fair Park. Tickets for adults are $17 and $13 for children, but Brookhaven College students can purchase discounted tickets at the cashier’s office in S Building for $13.50 for adults and $11 for children. Students can also find more discounted ticket pricing information at