You may have seen the news that the Michelin Guide once again decided to decorate a street food vendor with one of their highest accolades when they launched their Bangkok guide for 2018. Similar to Singapore’s hawker stall Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice & Noodle, who was awarded one Michelin star in 2016, so was the street food queen of Bangkok in November last year. We visited the city in January this year and were lucky enough to have Gaggan Anand (two-Michelin-starred chef and owner of Asia’s Best Restaurant the last four consecutive years) to guide us around the city for a couple of days. He took us to taste some of his favorite Thai restaurants and street food vendors, including, of course, Raan Jay Fai.
Raan Jay Fai – The Restaurant of Sister Mole
Technically, Raan Jay Fai is not a street food vendor as the eatery is situated in a typical Thai shophouse. Jay Fai, or Supinya Junsuta which is her real name, is not out on the streets with a wheeled food cart. Instead, she’s located at a permanent spot in a brick and mortar shop on Maha Chai Road in the Samran Rat neighborhood. Always sporting a perfect red lipstick, and wearing her iconic ski goggles, a knitted hat, and colorful rubber boots – all meant to protect her from the heat and scalding-hot oil. The name Raan Jay Fai means the restaurant of Sister Mole, referring to the characteristic mole on her neck.
Long before the Michelin guide came along and passed their judgment, Jay Fai had been a well-known figure on the streets of Bangkok, attracting a constant crowd of spectators eager to watch her perform. The skilled chef cooks almost all of the food herself, with only a few assistants to help her out in the kitchen and waiting tables. All dishes are cooked one by one in big woks placed over blazing hot charcoal fires inside old braziers in an outdoor kitchen.
Drunken Noodles & Crab Omelet at Raan Jay Fai
Gaggan had reserved seats well in advance (booking is a must these days – call +66 2223 9384) and helped us place an order for all the classics on the menu and some of his personal favorites. Two dishes you cannot miss at Raan Jay Fai are drunken noodles and the crab omelet. The drunken noodles (Phad-Kee-Mao Talay) are stir-fried flat rice noodles with a hot and spicy sauce, basil leaves, fresh chili and a selection of seafood. They cost 400 Baht, which is quite pricey for Thai street food, but the quality of the ingredients and the complex and delicious flavors make it worth it. I loved these sticky noodles.
If you think that’s expensive, then the 1000 Baht crab omelet (Kai-Jeaw Poo) should come as a real shock. That’s more than 30 USD, and would even be an expensive medium-sized dish in Norway. However, when you observe Jay Fai cook it, gently wrapping egg and lump crab together while it bathes in sizzling hot oil, you better understand the work that goes into each serving and the time it must have taken to learn the skill. Even better, when you bite into the fluffy roll – sweet, salty, and umami-rich – you quickly forget about the money you just spent. It’s slightly on the dry side, though, surprisingly enough when you consider the cooking technique, so make sure to dip it in hearty amounts of the accompanying chili sauce.
Other dishes we enjoyed at Jay Fai were the yellow curry (Poo Phad) with crab and onion (a favorite of Gaggan – and mine), Tom-Yum Goong soup, and fried rice with egg and crab (Kao Phad). You are seated in simple surroundings, drinking cheap beers that you have to finish fast in the heat, and equipped with plenty of paper napkins to clean up the mess you’re making. I think all these elements contribute to even more enjoyment of the food and the people you share the meal with. Hopefully, this wasn’t my last visit to Raan Jay Fai.
Wanna read more about the street food queen of Bangkok? I recommend the awesome food blogger DanielFoodDiary.
What’s your favorite shophouse eatery in Bangkok? Please share in a comment below.