"You do not need a silver fork to eat good food," Paul Prudhomme said and Southern food is proof. You do not need frills and fancy swirls when it comes to southern food, just a big family and an empty stomach.
Every dish has some amount of history and soul to it and you can feel that in almost every bite. Southern food is influenced by the many cultures that make up the tapestry of Southern people, and as a result these dishes are something quite unique and delicious. A lot of these dishes have amazing stories behind them and memories attached to each meal. They have been passed on from grandmothers to grandchildren and are a big part of a good dinner for most Southern families.
Southern food has quite a few recipes that involve oil but, unfortunately enough, fried foods are normally equated with junk food. These dishes quickly dispel that myth the moment you try a bite of fried okra or some green tomatoes with their crunchy exteriors. They are wholesome, filling and down to earth. Whether you are from the South or not, having these dishes on the table will make your Sunday dinner a whole lot better and it will also help you understand the history behind a lot of America's most well-known states. Whether you want to plan a get-together or visit a state fair, here are the fried dishes you need to try and the ones you should skip.
20 Try: Hushpuppies
These deep-fried balls of cornmeal were actually a side project that came to life by using the leftover cornmeal from the fish batter that was being used for fish fries. The quirky name actually has a few stories behind it with most saying it is because soldiers used to use the dish to quiet their dogs. This amazing idea is a quintessential part of every southern barbecue and is super easy to make. The savoury ball of fried dough is normally served as a side dish with seafood and also works well as a party food. One of the best recipes to follow would be Food Network's which serves around 30 pieces at a time.
19 Skip: Fried Butter
Unfortunately, fried butter is quite literally what the dish is because seasoning and other ingredients meant nothing to the creators. Iowa is home to fried butter, which is dipped into cinnamon batter before being deep fried and served. If you want to wake up the next day with an upset tummy and the urge to not move then this is the dish you are looking for. If not, give this a skip, as interesting as it sounds. You are essentially eating a stick of butter by itself, the only difference being the person who created it decided that frying it would be a good idea.
18 Try: Fried Green Tomatoes
Fried Green Tomatoes are actually far nicer than they sound. This dish has garnered so much attention that there have been books and films dedicated to it. In 1987, Fannie Flag published the novel Fried Green Tomatoes which later became a film that had actors like Kathy Bates and Mary Louise Parker. It may not be as famous as fried chicken but down South a meal without it is missing a little something. This dish is actually pretty seasonal and you will need to try it in the summer. Not a lot of people know about it like the locals do but a fried tomato with buttermilk dipping sauce screams summer for any southerner.
17 Skip: Fried Ice Cream Cheeseburger
Florida has managed to create some pretty weird dishes and customs in its time but this one takes the cake, the ice cream cake. It has a normal bun within which you have your traditional lettuce, tomatoes and cheese but then it gets weird. Instead of a chicken or beef patty, the people in Florida decided to go with a slab of ice cream covered with cinnamon and cornflakes. This slab is fried for about 15 minutes before making its way into the burger. As awful as this might taste, it also melts pretty fast which means all that is left is a soggy bun which leaves you with a milky aftertaste.
16 Try: Chicken-Fried Steak
Southern food is often heavy and the type of food that leaves you content. Chicken-fried steak, if prepared just right, is more than enough proof. It is the foundation of a Southern Sunday dinner but unfortunately, most of us only eat it when we go out. This is actually a pretty easy recipe to follow, and you should be fine if you have experience frying just about anything. The gravy will need a few failed attempts to get just right but do not give up. Be sure to add a ton of veggies as well to pull the dish together.
15 Skip: Fried Alligator On A Stick
Most people would avoid this one naturally but just in case you feel yourself being drawn to it, this is your warning against doing something you would regret. If someone tells you alligator tastes like pork, do not listen to them, just continue walking in the opposite direction. This snack is fried and skewered, teriyaki style, but is still not the most surprising dish on this list considering we just read about fried bubblegum. Illinois should not be proud of this one and it is definitely worth nothing but a skip.
14 Try: Fried Shrimp
Fried shrimp is a great idea if you are scratching your head trying to find the perfect dish for your guests. Deep fried shrimp dates back all the way to the 16th Century and the recipe has not changed much over the years. This simple recipe is delightfully crunchy and is also the excuse you need to make some hushpuppies along with it. If getting guests over gets you stressed and worried in advance, this snack can make it a whole lot better.
13 Skip: Fried Salsa
As you may have already guessed, this is not a good idea. It is not visually pleasing and essentially looks like a deformed tomato. This dish is basically jalapeños, onions, tomatoes and peppers rolled together and then fried. That means it is healthier than a lot of other dishes on this list but it is definitely not the tastiest. It is also covered in tortilla chips before it is deep fried and unfortunately everything just clashes with each other quite badly. Definitely not a dish you should bother trying or serving.
12 Try: Fried Okra
Okra tastes great in every shape or form- grilled, in gumbo or roasted- but fried okra is the best out of the lot. Summer is not summer without Fried Okra on the table. Once you get it fried until golden, it can be finished with the same speed that popcorn is finished in. This dish is perfect enough already and nothing really needs to be added to it. So settle down to watch Forrest Gump with a bowlful of fried okra and some sweet tea. It will make your weekend all the more enjoyable.
11 Skip: Fried Bubblegum
Texas was running out of ideas when fried bubblegum featured on the menu card and it is not even a hit down south. Fried bubblegum is the physical embodiment of the season that ruins a good TV series. You are going to need an appointment with your dentist immediately after you are done and you might as well buy a tube of toothpaste with it. If a southerner tells you to try this one, they are probably winding you up. For some reason, this dish even won the 'Most Creative' award at a state fair in Texas. Do not let that fool you into trying this ball of diabetes.
10 Try: Crispy Buffalo Chicken Wings
This is the staple of every football game and each satisfying bite is a simple way of rooting for your team. Any good game needs a television, an endless supply of drinks and some crispy buffalo chicken wings. Wings were the brainchild of Teresa Bellissimo and the first plat was served in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo. Little did she know that her quick impromptu snack would become know the world over and even have a day dedicated to it. The New York town still celebrates July 29 as Buffalo Chicken Wing Day and has been since 1977.
9 Skip: Fried Beer
Too much of a good thing is not always wonderful and fried beer is proof. Your first and very logical question should be: How do you fry a liquid? Well, Texas has got you covered on that one. Fried beer is essentially deep fried ravioli that contains beer within it. As creative as this sounds, it looks and tastes terrible. Homer Simpson would be disgusted by it and the Italians shuddered when they took a look. Texas has got some amazing fried dishes but this is simply not one of them. This dish even has a special page dedicated to it on WikiHow in case you are curious or want to tempt your gag reflex.
8 Try: Fried Onion Rings
Fried onion rings are offered by tons of fast food chains but it all started in the South. No one knows exactly when fried onion rings were created but a recipe for them was found in a Crisco advertisement back in 1933. After that, the recipe spread like wildfire across the country and the globe. Other recipes were also found as time went on, some that date back as far as 1802, but the creator remains unknown. It is now a perfect side dish and June 22 is even known as Fried Onion Rings day. Even though you can get them at any store and just defrost them, eating them fresh by making them yourself is how it is supposed to be.
7 Try: Fried Pickles
Fried pickles are undoubtedly one of the best appetizer options you can go for when you are eating out. Even if you do not personally like pickles, you should still try this dish because you may just fall in love with them. The Duchess Drive-In based in Arkansas was the first restaurant to serve this tasty snack. The creator, Bernell 'Fatman' Austin, was the owner of the Duchess and actually had his restaurant right across from a pickle factory so it really is no surprise that he came up with this amazing idea.
6 Skip: Fried Pigs' Ears
If only the name puts you off, then the actual dish is not going to make anything better. Fried pig ears need a lot of cooking time as well and most people do not want to try them anyway. They do not work well on a buffet table and are annoyingly chewy with no real taste. The dish was essentially created in the attempt to be innovative but this one is better off in the history books. If you ever see these on a menu, do not just skip them, consider leaving the restaurant as well.
5 Try: Fried Catfish
Ground cornmeal and seasoning makes the crunchy exterior for fried catfish and catching it yourself makes the dish complete. This satisfying crunch paired with tartar sauce makes every lunch outing better. A quick tip would be to keep a close eye on the temperature of the oil while you are going through batches just to make sure you get that perfect crunch for your fish. If you are not from the south do not let that stop you from making this a family tradition. You will most definitely not regret it. Fried catfish also goes really well with hushpuppies because as mentioned earlier on, seafood and hushpuppies is always a good combination.
4 Skip: Fried Pepsi
Pepsi is not exactly healthy in the first place with each glass adding about a million calories to your daily total. Evidently, this was not enough for somebody which then led to the creation of Fried Pepsi. Much like beer, Fried Pepsi follows the same steps where the dough is filled with Pepsi after being fried. This calorie count was still not high enough because after that is done, they also sprinkled powdered sugar and icky sweet syrup over it to make it worse. Skip this one for the sake of your stomach if nothing else.
3 Try: Fried Twinkies
You may feel a little disgusted with yourself after this dish but it is quite enjoyable while it lasts. You can find this dish at most Southern fairs today but it all started in Rugby, England where Christopher Sells used to try frying up whatever he could get his hands on while working at a fish and chips shop. He then moved to the United States and continued experimenting till he came across this idea. This fried snack is actually one of the better ones when it comes to calories, so trying it at your next state fair should be on your to-do list.
2 Try: Pumpkin Chips
Pumpkin chips are a great substitute for you if you are tired of the greasiness that comes with potato chips. This crunchy, healthy snack is great for a night watching Netflix minus the guilt that comes with a packet of Pringles. You can get a bag of these at the store but if you have the time to make them at home, you should take the time to follow the recipe. This is a favourite for the October and November months of the year because pumpkins are cheaper than ever. You can also roast the seeds on the side if you take the time to follow a recipe. That means you get two snacks for the price and effort of one.
1 Try: Fried Chicken
Everyone saw this coming and it will always deserve the top spot on any list. Fried chicken is a delightful experience no matter which way it is served. For southerners, it means home and Sunday dinner memories. It is simple, crispy and pretty much the definition of perfection. KFC is absolutely exceptional, but take the time to make it yourself once in a while with either your kids or just friends. You won't regret it. Here is a great recipe to get you started.