Fried dough is a North American food associated with outdoor food stands in carnivals, amusement parks, fairs, rodeos, and seaside resorts (though it can be made at home). Fried dough is the specific name for a particular variety of fried bread made of a yeast dough; see the accompanying images for an example of use on carnival-booth signage. Fried dough is also known as elephant ears, whale tails, pizza frita, frying saucers , buñuelos in the case of smaller pieces, and in Rhode Island squares of pizza dough that get deep fried and covered in sugar are called doughboys; these foods are virtually identical to each other, and recognizably different from other fried dough foods such as doughnuts, beignets, or fritters.
In Canada, pieces of fried dough are sometimes called beaver tails. According to Bill Castleman, a writer of books on Canadian word origins, the name referred to quick-baked dough "especially in early 19th-century places where people might camp for one night and where there was no frying pan. Some sources identify beaver tails as a local specialty in Ottawa, where they are associated especially with the city's Winterlude festival, although beaver tails can be purchased in many other Canadian cities as well. BeaverTails is the name (and Canadian trademark) of a chain of restaurants specializing in the item, founded in Ottawa in 1978.
An Italian variant common in North America is zeppole.
The dough may then be sprinkled with a variety of toppings, such as granulated sugar, powdered sugar, cinnamon, fruit sauce, chocolate sauce, cheese, maple syrup, whipped cream, tomato sauce, garlic butter, or a combination of more than one of these.