Friday, May 8, 2015

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--Unusual Fried Foods

     I was going to title this post, “Weird Fried Foods,” or even “Bizarre Fried Foods,” but then I took a brief look online.  And I realized that, clearly, I was out of my element, and didn’t realize to what heights (depths?) chefs have gone to in frying things.  Here are some of the more extreme ones—fried (and breaded) bacon, fried pineapple, fried peach pies, fried Kool Aid (I assume in powdered form), and fried peanut butter and jelly with bananas sandwiches.  (The last one, I believe, minus the jelly, was a favorite of Elvis’s.  Washed down with buttermilk.  Which helps to solve the mystery of his ballooning waistline in the 1970’s, I suppose.)
     As we know (or should), stereotypes are often hateful slurs, or at least wildly exaggerated generalizations.  But on this one narrow issue, they appear to be true.  As I was going through the lists (which usually came complete with photos) of strange fried foods, eyes agape in both horror and hunger, I noticed some state names or regions cropping up frequently.  A few Midwestern states, like Iowa.  But a whole lot of Southern states, with Texas in the lead.  One type of social event was mentioned many times, too.  Essentially, it appears that a common theme of (mostly Southern) state fairs is “We’ll bread up a slew of foods, throw them in a deep fryer, and serve them to you.”  Or “Celebrate your state’s heritage while eating foods that will make your doctor weep in impotent frustration.”
     But let’s start the madness.  First up are fried green tomatoes.  If you are a rabid “Simpsons” fan like myself, you may know these as Manjula Nahasapeemapetilon’s (married to Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu) favorite food, book, and movie.  They consist of unripe tomatoes which are seasoned with salt and pepper, rolled in cornmeal (or flour in the less common Northern version), and sometimes dipped in buttermilk, and fried.  Alas, I can’t remember where exactly I had them, other than in an Eastern state.  Since I like tomatoes quite a bit (see November 21, 2012 post), surprise! I liked these too.  They made for a tasty appetizer, complete with a dipping sauce (ranch?  Blue cheese?  Something like that).
     Similar in shape, size, and preparation method are fried pickles.  When I first heard about these, probably 15 years ago or so, I thought they were a joke.  But they’ve sure grown in popularity.  At this point they’re probably only slightly uncommon fried foods, to be honest.  Even restaurant chains like Buffalo Wild Wings have them.  Once again, I enjoy pickles, so much so I’ve been known to eat an entire jar in one sitting.  And breaded and fried is another nice pickle transportation system to the stomach.  Also usually served with a dipping sauce, this is a fine appetizer.
     Fried steak, aka chicken fried steak, is another one I couldn’t believe in when I first heard about it.  The thought of taking a steak and breading and frying it seemed so extreme that it seemed like an insane cook’s idea of performance art, a total instant culinary heart attack.  So I resisted trying this one for quite some time, but finally curiosity won out, and I had some.  And it’s…..really good.  Evidently it’s usually made using a rather weak, crappy cut of meat, called cube steak, and the seasoned flour batter covers this up nicely.  Additionally, I had the German dish wiener schnitzel, which is rather similar.
     You may be noticing a trend here, and I might as well get it over with, and admit it.  I almost always enjoy fried foods.  I often mock them, but then when I taste them I’m forced to shut up and concede that the makers and consumers of these foods are on to something good.  Here’s another “out there” kind—fried ravioli filled with beer.  Evidently it’s only flash fried, so the beer isn’t hot.  Now on the surface this sounds like an abomination, an unholy pairing invented by a psycho.  But I read about it, laughed in wonderment…..and then started to think about what it would taste like.  And then thinking it might actually be delicious (depending on what kind of beer was used, of course).
     Fried apples were different from the others in this post, in that they weren’t breaded.  Instead, they’d been fried without batter, and then canned.  I picked these up at the grocery.  They were Luck’s brand, and were advertised as having, “Authentic Southern Taste!”  I followed the serving directions, as I could while staying in a hotel, by microwaving them.  They were just okay.  They basically tasted like regular canned apples, I thought.  Although, to give them some credit, unique amomgst the fried foods I’ve discussed, they were fat free.
     I’ll end with the most extreme one I’ve ever tried—fried Oreos.  Yes, some folks bread a cookie (using a sweet batter, similar to pancake batter), fry it up, and eat it!  I had the chance to sample this in a barbecue place in Virginia.  And yet again my holier-than-thou amused outrage was trumped.  Oreos by themselves—good.  Oreos basically wrapped in a thin fried pancake—also appetizing.  My arteries presumably hated me, but I found this to be a very respectable dessert.
     Now that you’ve read to the end, I’ll reveal the even more hardcore, crazy fried foods.  Leading off is fried chewing gum.  Yes, gum.  How do you eat this?  I’m thinking either you accidentally keep chewing on the outer breading, and/or accidentally swallow the gum.  Moving on, a friend of mine (Hi JimmyJoeJimBob!) years ago used to say he enjoyed fried mayonnaise balls.  He might have thought he was kidding, but lo and behold, such a thing has been made.  Someone took a condiment, by itself, and battered and fried it.  Or take fried butter.  Yes, amazingly, it’s real.  People took a food additive/cooking grease/spread/condiment and fried it up all by its lonesome.  But here’s the king, so far.  Fried sugar cubes!  For the diner who says, “I don’t want to mess around getting both high cholesterol and diabetes, I want to start developing them more efficiently, in one bite.”
     Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to look up state fair schedules.


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