Home Dining Bangkok street food: Jay Fai ~ Michelin star chef

Bangkok street food: Jay Fai ~ Michelin star chef

by capetowndiva

In November 2020 Michelin Guide Thailand 2021 announced that super cook Jay Fai would retain her Star a Michelin Star for her street-side food operation on Maha Chai Road.

My allegiance to Bangkok is compounded by the vibrant chaos, the humidity, the people and, best of all, the street food so making a turn at Jay Fai was high on my agenda on my last trip in 2018.

Jay Fai is Thailand’s first street food chef to be awarded a Michelin star. Her crab omelettes are all the rage but it’s the theatre around her process that makes a visit there so complete-the camo threads, gumboots, Despicable Me goggles and the red lips, an unexpectedly glamourous statement. She certainly knows how to work a look.

Jay Fai’s alleyway kitchen and restaurant is in the Phra Nakhon District ) , off a little known area not really frequented by tourists which makes it all the more appealing.

I chatted with Jay Fai during Lockdown last year, asking about how the pandemic had affected the business and about what foodies can expect when they sit down to a meal at her quirky shop house, now that Thailand is open again to tourists (albeit with a 2 week quarantine period). She kept the trade going through her takeaway service and said things were generally ok with plenty of locals supporting her, as usual. She mentioned a new dish too that sounds divine- traditional stir fried  crispy rice noodle served with prawns or other seafood costing 800THB.

Jay Fai, 75,  has always pulled a crowd. Her eponymous shophouse  took pavement Pad Thai to new heights when she first opened it fourty years ago. Since being listed in the city’s inaugural Michelin Guide book that was launched in 2017,  a new wave of fans has descended on her unassuming eatery and demand is off the charts.

A Michelin Star for Jay Fai

At time of writing the first rendition of this post (May 2018), she was only the third street food chef in South East Asia to win a single Michelin star. When first told about it she was not entirely convinced it as what she wanted and had to be persuaded to attend the ceremony. Today, according to the Bangkok Post, twenty-seven food shops and restaurants in Bangkok and other provinces have been awarded stars in the latest Micheline Guide, with Jay Fai retaining its one-star rating.

Solo chef

Jay Fai cooks solo- with a tight team behind the scenes- and plays her recipe cards close to her chest. The long queues and constant stream of locals (always the best indicator), foodies, journalists, bloggers and critics has her on her feet eight to ten hours a day, six day week, and the restaurant’s popularity shows no sign of abating. “Now that we’ve been singled out and interviewed they’re coming at us,” she told the Bangkok Post last year, “oh, I wish I could give the star back already.” Miffed she may have been but the lavish prices Jay Fai is now able to command might just make up for it. Dishes priced from 300 to 1000 Baht (R115-R385) typically cost 50 to 100 Baht at other sidewalk eateries, but this is next level Michelin star food.

Jay Fai cooks the old fashioned way, over charcoal

There are a few signature dishes on the two-page menu at Jay Fai, and the giant crab omelette is the one that comes in hot every day, without fail, and has earned her the nickname ‘the omelette queen’. Deep fried in a wok over a charcoal fire, it looks more like a plump burrito and is served without fanfare on a plastic plate atop a paper napkin. The Guay-tiew-phad-see-ew Talay, made with stir fried rice noodles, egg, sweet soya sauce, mixed vegetables and enormous succulent prawns, is also an excellent choice, a noodle heap dense with flavour and intoxicating Thai aromas.

Guay-tiew-phad-see-ew Talay,

The backstory

Jay Fai, whose formal name is Supinya Junsuta, was born in 1945 to Chinese immigrant parents who sold chicken noodles for a living. Instead of joining them in the business, she took work as a seamstress until a turn of events saw her open her own restaurant in the 80’s in the Phra Nakhon District, home to iconic landmarks like Wat Pho Temple, the Democracy Monument and further down on the grittier side of town, Khao San Road with its cluster of Bohemian bars, backpacker lodges and tattoo parlours.

Keeping it simple, fresh and consistently good

As a rookie cook in her mid -thirties, Jay Fai kept to basics like congee (porridge) and mostly referenced her mother’s recipes, but as her confidence grew she experimented more, upped the diversity and expanded the offering to include wok-cooked seafood dishes that have since become her forte. She has always been fastidious about quality and is said to travel the length and breadth of Bangkok daily to procure the freshest of ingredients. Her excellent reputation dates as far back as 1999 when a reviewer hailed her as “one of those increasingly rare Mozart’s of the noodle pan who can transform very ordinary, lunchtime-at-the-market dishes into masterpieces of local cuisine,” and celebrity Martha Stewart once rated her the best cook in Thailand.

An optimum experience

At Jay Fai you are paying for an experience. She herself is the main attraction as she gets down to business in full view of a diverse clientele, many of whom gather around to film and photograph her as she flamboyantly lifts and swirls the pans before ladling the steaming contents into rows of waiting bowls. At age 73 and with remarkable energy, she moves tirelessly back and forth in her rudimentary set up, hustling between two charcoal braziers and counter tops crammed spices, sauces and the tools of the trade.

*Don’t forget to book in advance, details below.


Accommodation: Siam@Siam Design Hotel

Getting to Bangkok: Ethiopian Airlines / Cloud Nine (business class)

*Jay Fai address: AD327 Samran Rat Intersection, Phra Nakhon, Krung Thep | Booking: jayfaibangkok@gmail.com / @jayfaibangkok on Instagram

Travel guide Bangkok: Diethelm (my thanks especially to Katy)

Bangkok to Chiang Mai: Bangkok Airways

I was hosted for part of my Bangkok trip by Thailand SA and the Tourism Authority Thailand. For more about Thailand, visit Amazing Thailand SA on Facebook. 

(*My meal was paid for in full by myself & all opinions are my own)


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