While in a completely different league than the doughnut offerings at Gourdoughs, Ken's Donuts lies in the heart of the University district of Austin and runs is your more traditional doughnut shop. When asking around for fried dough suggestions in Austin, many recommended Ken's for a variety of reasons; this is your basic, good and honest doughnut shop. Open 24 hours, here at Ken's you find the classic rounds of glazed and raised, cake and sprinkled. And they also have samosas.
Walking up to Ken's, I was immediately thrilled when I spied a comforting figure as part of their signage -- a Ganesha head painted as part of the masthead, with the divine elephant's trunk joyously clutching a sprinkled doughnut. I took this as a good omen as the Hindu elephant god is known as the Remover of Obstacles and Bestower of Boons. Walking inside the shop, there is the immediate aroma of hot oil, warm sugar, and freshly made dough. The man behind the counter -- Ken? -- was amenable and pleasant and in my slightly befuddled state of what to try, immediately suggested the Sour Cream Cake as a consistent favorite.
But wait - there were also samosas. In San Francisco, I often bemoan the fact that Donut Shops should not mix their sweet offerings with seemingly disparate savory ones. But this was not a fast-food establishment, selling mediocre Chinese food alongside sweet doughnuts. Here, there was a single tray of precision samosas and it was one of the reasons that Ken's was so well known. Still mostly full from the Gourdoughs experience the night before, I ordered light; a single samosas, a chocolate doughnut hole, and which ever doughnut was the most popular as recommended by the guy behind the counter, the Sour Cream Cake.
I must admit that the samosa shocked me in its simplicity and goodness. Filled with potatoes and peas, this was one of the best prepared samosas I had experienced. Thin, flaky dough was folded over the spicy filling giving layer upon layer of encasement to the center. I have had so many samosas that were made with a thicker, heavier dough which when fried bubbles and becomes chewy. Here, it is though they are use brik dough or a won-ton wrapper to create multiple thin layers to encase the spicy interior. My hostess, Jane, said they reminded her of the best Cornish pasties and I got that immediately -- wholesome and rich without being greasy or chewy, these crisp and tender triangles were a steal at $1.00 each.
Very much to my surprise, the Sour Cream Cake doughnut was equally up the challenge. When it comes to these corner doughnut stores, I have become blasé in my expectations that a decent doughnut is the same almost everywhere and that a poorly-prepared doughnut is a travesty. While this was quite a decent doughnut, it was a bit more than that; very fresh and with a tight crumb, the richness of the sour cream balanced well the perfect amount of glaze which provided that correct amount of "tooth" to the piece. It is that discernible amount of crunch which the glazing has to provide countered against the moist and tender cake. Too much glaze and one is left with shards of sugar, falling off the doughnut. A dry cake and all one tastes is glaze. Here, it was all brought together in a flawless combination. All-in-all, an extremely satisfying fried dough experience.