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Goodbye Worcester, I'll Miss You Chashu Ramen + Izakaya

Back in 2019, I toured Clark University as a prospective student. As my biology is structured differently than most, I didn’t care too much about the campus design or dorm rooms; Clark originally wormed its way into my heart, through my stomach. No, not Clark's former food provider Sodexo (Sodexo: providing food to campuses and prisons alike!), but a Worcester staple, The Fix. 


Imagine a place where burgers came with fries. At this mystical land, the classic burger is a whopping $13, and all options can be substituted for impossible meat and vegetarian patties. For years, The Fix fixed my need for a delicious burger. 


After five years at Clark University and Worcester, I had to have my last supper at the Fix during my graduation weekend. What I originally assumed would be a heartfelt goodbye was met with ease as the quality of my food and service had depreciated. I left without a food glow or reason to return to Worcester or The Fix. At least until I was reminded about the absolute perfection, originality, and tastiness served at Chashu Ramen


Three years ago, I first ordered takeout from Chashu Ramen + Izakaya: a pork bun (because, of course) and a bowl of ramen. But when I arrived back at my dorm room, I was horrified that the $8 pork bun resulted in only one bun instead of two to three. I was also disappointed with the quality of the ramen. I begrudgingly finish as much food as humanly possible, but my definition of “humanly possible” varied from my stance today or even a year prior.


ramen and pork bun take out

When I first tried Chashu, I was virtually on bed rest. Between my everyday Chronic Lyme pains and medication that made me sicker, food and I weren’t on well-acquainted terms. Having ordered shoyu to soothe my stomach and the pork bun as a little treat, I hoped that the excitement of a new restaurant would lift my spirits. But I forgot about one of the gifts of this medication. Disulfiram interacts with anything and everything fermented. When first placed on this tortuous medication, the doctor said no alcohol or yogurt because they are fermented. He neglected to share that key ramen ingredients, such as soy sauce, miso paste, and vinegar, are all fermented ingredients that could and would interact with this medication. 


So, after what I can assume to be a long, painful night, I vowed never to eat at the expensive and mediocre restaurant again (because it was clearly the restaurant’s fault and NOT AT ALL the medications). 


With such vehemence, I have no idea how I ever returned those doors, but as of my last visit, the staff remembered my name, order, and family. Now I know what you're thinking. If it’s so good, how could I wait a year to return? 


Last year, I went with my family a day before my bachelor's graduation. I then fled the country to Luxembourg. I returned to Worcester that September, where I mostly ordered takeout as it had minimal options for vegetarians (and all of my friends are vegetarians). But enough is enough, let’s talk about the food.


  1. Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich


Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich

During my internship at the Downtown Worcester Business Improvement District (BID), my bosses made a welcome lunch reservation at the one and only Chashu Ramen. The morning of, in preparation, Lisa and I discussed our pending orders. She informed me about their Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich. Unbeknownst to Lisa, I am a fried chicken sandwich fiend. Her description hooked me before I had even taken my first bite. 


As a mammoth amount of fried chicken sits on a lovely house-made ube bun, I drooled impatiently waiting for that first bite. They top the sandwich with kimchi, cabbage slaw, pickled red onions, superb cajun fries, and a side of gochujang aioli. The chicken taunted me, as the gochujang sauce glistens in the light and the ooze of the toppings trickled down the side. 


Faith unhinging jaw to eat sandwich

At this first encounter, I dunked my fries into the spicy side sauce and was in heaven. I took the large steak knife and plopped the addictive aioli to the top of the ube bun. Rather than using the knife to cut this colossal-sized sandwich, I unhinged my jaw to bite into this sandwich. The memory of this bite lives rent-free in my brain, as I can perfectly recall the sound of the crunch. 


On my most recent visit, after my master’s graduation, Anna, our waitress from last year, walked past and from the corner of her eye, spotted me. She blurted, “Hey! I’ve been looking for you. You came in last year, right? The girl who loved the Korean sandwich.”  Equally embarrassed and proud, I confirmed her statement, trying to ignore my family and Raina’s, who had burst into laughter. During this dinner, I also hooked my Other Mother, Ruth, and her husband Roger. 


Korean fried Chicken Sandwich cut in half

However, this rave review has one complaint: its originality. Despite the plethora of amazing Japanese and Korean restaurants in New York City, I have yet to find a similar sandwich. I can only get this sandwich in Worcester, MA. So here I am, weeks later, completely heartbroken about this sandwich…oh…wait…I’m not missing a sandwich; I miss my friends….


PS: For those who dislike spice they have a “classic” fried chicken sandwich as well. I assume it is good, as all their food is, but I have never bothered to try it, the Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich is RIGHT THERE. 


Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich


  1.  Abura

Located under “Mazemen,” meaning served broth-less with an array of scrumptious sauces and tasty toppings, Chashu’s serves their abura with smoked bacon, king oyster mushrooms, scallions, chili oil, pork belly, a soft-boiled egg (unless your me), and santaka tare (a pepper-soy sauce based sauce). 


abura

As my go-to ramen is tonkatsu, the abura brings a heat I would often never order. It often ruins my plans of consuming less liquids, as chili oil and santaka tare packs a punch. But, the additional water just coats my throat paving the way for more thinly sliced pork belly and noodles. While the king oyster mushroom adds a bridge between the softy pork belly and the theoretical crunch of the bacon. I say theoretically, as the bacon is often unnoticeable. Missing this texture and mouthfeel, I believe that the refreshing bite of bean sprouts or the somewhat tumultuous tear of a bamboo shoot could amend the problem, all while connecting back to ramen.


The closest I have come to this in New York is Okiboru House of Tsukemen. But these noodles, pork belly, scallion, and lime, are dipped in chicken broth. Good, but not as good as Chashu.


  1. Japanese Street Corn


corn off the cob

I have been going to Chashu long enough to know, or at least taste, the evolution of their Japanese Street Corn. Originally on the cob, the corn was charred, glazed with Mirin mayo, and topped with fried shallots, scallions, radish, lime, and togarashi. Today, this dish is served without a radish and off the cob…and is a must-order. But beware, every moment you spend licking your lips is a moment wasted and gives your opponent––I mean tablemate––to eat more. So get your chopsticks out and prepare for battle. 


corn on the cob

The closest thing you can get to this in New York is Jongro’s cheese corn side dish at Korean BBQ. 



Shout Outs


Apple-Slaw Pork Bao

It is no secret that I LOVE PORK BUNS. While all food feeds your stomach, a pork bun feeds the black hole in my soul. I’m a simple girl when it comes to a pork bun, I want pork and a bun. But Chashu doesn’t do the bare minimum. Slotted in between a steamed bun, their braised pork belly bao is topped with green apple slaw, sweet red pepper paste, and spicy mayo. 


pork bao

This elevated pork bao will have you crying for more. I have ZERO complaints about the quality of this bao bun. But I rarely purchase it at Chashu because, despite its elevated nature, I can’t pay $8 for a pork bun in good conscience. Just imagine having to undergo surgery to remove your kidney just so you can finish your pork bao and your  Korean Fried Chicken Sando and the bao. Without this surgery, I would be able to finish everything, and that’s just not how I was raised. 


Chicken Karaage

I don't want to fulfill the “Black people love fried chicken” stereotype, but my infatuation with chicken Karaage anywhere knows no bounds. And at Chashu, it’s not different. This Japanese fried chicken with spicy mayo, pickled radish, and togarashi seasoning is the perfect order for a table to snack on––delicious, but not good enough to incite violence. 


— 


As you can see, dear reader, my initial dislike was not Chashu’s fault. To that extent, I would like to take the time to apologize to Chashu Ramen for my previous incorrect misconception. I am sorry. And thank you for years of feeding me. 


Now, as I sit, somewhat impatiently, for Faith’s Next Big Thing, I will reflect on my time in Worcester and at Clark, but most importantly, I will continue to think about you, Chashu Ramen. I will reminisce about my teeth sinking into the Ube bun, the slurp of my spicy noodles, the chopstick war wounds on the back of my hand, the crunch of the apple slaw, and the instant warmth of fried chicken…and the staff. 


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