Well, there is one slight difference: These are vegan — so no meat, dairy or other animal products. But the names are the same, from fried Reuben fritters to fried Frito chili pie to a fried jalapeno popper. But instead of brisket or cheese, that popper is stuffed with peanut butter and banana.
Now in its third year, the Texas State Veggie Fair is an all-vegan festival with food, live music, games and arts; the 2011 fair drew about 2,500 people. In addition to a fried foods contest, there are seminars, chef demos and lots of eats.
The judges at this year's fried food competition include Ken Botts, director of UNT’s food program, home to the first vegan cafeteria at a mainstream university; and James Johnston, who co-founded Spiral Diner, Dallas-Fort Worth’s premier vegan restaurant, with his wife, Amy McNutt.
Rachael Abrams, associate editor from none other than CultureMap Dallas, will also be a judge.
Founder James Scott was inspired to create the competition after witnessing all the hoopla over the State Fair of Texas’ annual Big Tex Choice Awards.
On to the descriptions:
Fried Reuben fritters. A savory combination of chopped corned "beef" seitan, sauerkraut and rich cashew Swiss "cheese" rolled into a ball, coated in rye breadcrumbs and fried. Speared with a deli dill pickle chip and served with vegan Russian dressing and spicy brown mustard.
Fried Frito chili pie. Spicy vegan chili — seitan simmered in onions, tomatoes, garlic, chile powder, cumin and paprika — dipped in beer batter and coated with crushed corn chips. Served with a side of Fritos. This is a true Texas-style chili, which means no beans!
Fried calamari. Mushrooms marinated in tamari, then sliced into thin, squid-like ribbons and flash-fried until crisp on the outside and tender within. They’re sprinkled with a fiery spice mix that includes red pepper flakes and dried seaweed and served with a vegan aioli.
Fried banana bread. Vegan banana bread made with fresh mashed bananas, cut into bite-size squares, and fashioned into a “sandwich” with a sweet cream filling. They're dipped in a sweet batter and fried until crunchy and hot. Topped with a dollop of whipped “cream.”
Fried tiramisu cheesecake. This vegan twist on the Italian dessert is a little bit cheesecake, a little bit cake ball. Hand-made ladyfingers are soaked in Amaretto and espresso, then rolled together with chunks of Tofutti cream cheesecake. The balls are enrobed in a pancake batter, deep fried and drizzled with raspberry puree.
Fried chicken nuggets. Seitan is cut into chicken-tender strips, dusted with a hot spice mix and rolled in thick batter, then plunged into the deep fryer. The strips are served with a tangy mustard dipping sauce.
Fried PB&J. In this case, the J stands not for jam but for jalapeño in this attention-grabbing novelty. A fresh jalapeño is hollowed out and stuffed with peanut butter and mashed bananas. Then it's dipped in cornbread batter, fried until crunchy and drizzled with chocolate syrup. Is it sweet or is it savory? The judges will have to decide.
This year’s Texas State Veggie Fair takes place October 21 at Reverchon Park.