A Sign of Pride
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Just when we think we’ve seen every bit of clothing, every knick-knack, every tchotchke that can possibly be splashed in burnt orange and adorned with the Longhorn logo, someone comes up with an original idea to showcase some pride for the University of Texas. Case in point: the “Hook ‘em donut,” a deep-fried dough ball shaped into the famous hook ‘em hand sign before being coated with an orange, sugary glaze.
The pastry is Pisey Seng’s pride and joy. Seng—or Angel, as she prefers to be called—co-owns Donut Tacos Palace, a small bakery tucked away in a strip mall in Southwest Austin. It may not be as palatial as its name suggests, but Donut Tacos Palace has developed a bit of a cult following. Seng moved from Boston, where she worked as a nail technician after immigrating to the United States from Cambodia, to Austin, in 2006. “One day my brother-in-law says come to Texas. They do good on the donut shop,” she said in English, her second, self-taught language. Seng and husband, Marc, took the advice, moved to Austin, and bought a little shop called the Donut Palace within the year. (They later revamped the store and its menu, and re-named it Donut Tacos Palace.)
A few months after Seng and her husband took the Donut Palace over from its previous owners, a customer came in with an unusual request. “He asked me for it again and again,” Seng said. “He said it’s called Longhorn donut.” He claimed the shop used to sell it, and one day, to prove his point, he brought in a picture of the pastry he had been describing to Seng. It was slightly malformed donut meant to be the shape of the hook ‘em hand sign. When Seng saw it, she thought she might be able to improve on its design. “So I tried to do it again and again and again,” she said. All told, it took her five years to get the “Hook ‘em donut” right. Now she takes custom orders for any kind of “sign donut,” as she refers to the doughy hands. (If a Donut Taco Palace opens in College Station, that might get a big, ahem, thumbs up from the locals.)
She said she has plenty of Longhorn fans come in for the specialty pastry, which they tend to take pretty seriously. “Sometimes, I put the Longhorn behind the Aggie,” she said, referring to a thumbs-up donut she makes. “Oh my god, they’re so mad! They’re like, ‘Take that one out!’” She even got a call a few weeks ago from someone at UT interested in placing an order for over 1,000 of her best-selling creations, For those interested in eating a donut shaped like a hand, the “Hook ‘em donut” is made fresh and sold individually every Saturday and Sunday at all three Donut Taco Palace locations.