Meet Your New Blasian Asian Family
Nestled in the bustling food court of Union Hall is a hidden gem of a food stall you don’t want to miss. The Blasian Asian serves up made-to-order Cambodian dishes—Nompang Sach Chrouk (a sandwich similar to bahn mi), Nam Chean (pork or veggie egg rolls), Jakak (marinated meat skewers)—you won’t find anywhere else in Waco. Plus, its owners are two of the kindest people you’ll meet: Chevy (Chavrat) and Mike DuBose.
What began as a side hustle selling sandwiches out the back of a truck has become a full-scale, fast-casual restaurant, open seven days a week. Chevy and Mike run the business, and you will see both of them taking orders and greeting customers like long-lost family, sometimes rushing out into the hallway, ready with a hug. They’ll remember your face, your name, and often, your favorite order.
Chevy’s Secret Recipes, Scratch-Made to Order
The dishes at The Blasian Asian are full of aromatic ingredients from Chevy’s childhood in Cambodia: lemongrass, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and a bevy of other ingredients Chevy keeps close to her chest, as she makes all the sauces and marinades herself.
The Jakak, delicate marinated skewers of beef, pork, or chicken bursting with bright lemongrass, is extremely labor-intensive to make. First there’s the spiced paste, which requires a skilled hand for trimming, chopping, and crushing the lemongrass. Next there’s the marinade to prepare, then the meat is hand-cut ten pounds at a time into the thinnest of ribbons (a process Mike describes as “delicate and surgical”). Once cut, the meat is marinated in Chevy’s secret recipe for up to eight hours before being carefully threaded onto skewers (resulting in not a few cramped hands), then grilled to order.
“Do you want to know what’s in her marinade?” jokes Mike. “I have no idea. She won’t tell me. She has this little notebook, and when I come into the kitchen—she’s smooth with it—she’ll slowly close the book.”
“So, the kitchen is mine,” laughs Chevy. “It’s not his thing. And when I’m working, I’m always focused.”
The dainty Nam Chean (egg rolls) with an excellent crispy-shell-to-inner-meaty-chew ratio, take hours to hand roll. Mike and the team joke that Chevy can watch videos on her tablet while rolling egg rolls and still produce them 50% faster than anyone else in the kitchen.
An excellent accompaniment to your skewers or egg rolls is the Bai Char (garlic fried rice). Studded with plenty of garlic, peas, carrots, and tendrils of egg, it is a homey dish that manages to achieve those occasional crispy bits of rice without getting bogged down by too much oil.
For a warm bowl of comfort, look no farther than the Somlar Kari Sach Mouan, or yellow chicken curry, with its tender chunks of carrot and green bell pepper accompanying thin slivers of chicken, all smothered in a rich curry fragrant with lemongrass and strips of ginger.
Finding the ingredients for these dishes is no joke in Central Texas, and Mike travels to Arlington and beyond to source the freshest herbs and produce. Galangal, kaffir lime leaves, white lemongrass (the purple variety won’t do)—Mike says the secret spots are drying up and he’s having to travel farther afield to find them. And the ginger? Chevy says, “It has to be yellow, meaty, juicy—like an apple.”
For Chevy and Mike, People Come First
Though the cost of ingredients has risen significantly in the last year, prices at The Blasian Asian have barely budged, and Chevy and Mike still find a way to provide life and health insurance for all thirteen of their employees. They offer unlimited overtime to staff members who need the extra cash, and they’ve been known to feed former employees for free, even helping out with rent and utilities when a staff member is in a bind.
Sometimes their team chides them for being overly generous. Chevy says, with tears in her eyes, “It’s fine. Let them have it. Let them eat. Because I think sometimes when they need help the most, everybody closes the door on them. I understand. It’s just money. It’s just food. And whatever happened, I like when they eat and are happy. Even if it’s just food, one plate or two plates, they will remember.”
“It’ll come back to us later,” says Mike. “For us, it’s not about the food, and it’s not about the money. It’s about the community. It’s about our employees. It’s about the people. We like meeting people and learning from other people. We make good food that people enjoy, but that’s not just what we’re about.”
Perhaps some of this generosity of spirit originates from Chevy’s childhood, part of which was spent surviving life under the Khmer Rouge, when Cambodian citizens were being displaced, starved, tortured, even murdered, by the dictator Pol Pot. Chevy lost family members under the regime, but she insists that by sharing—her story, her resources—she keeps bitterness at bay.
“When we keep so much, it turns you to bitterness. I want to share so that other people know that it’s okay to share. So, all those heavy hearts—let it out. It won’t turn you bitter anymore.”
“If you want something good, you have to give out a good feeling,” says Chevy. “If people treat you badly, you can’t treat other people badly. You have to put out good things. It will make you proud of yourself and make you want to continue doing good things. You don’t have to spend money. You don’t have to lose anything. One thing you gain is happiness.”
Go to The Blasian Asian and let Chevy and Mike make you happy. You will make their day, and you will leave feeling like family.
The Blasian Asian is located in Union Hall at 720 Franklin Avenue and is open seven days a week, 11 am to 9 pm.
Want to know more? Check out Chevy DuBose’s recipe for ramen noodle chow mein.
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