Jay Fai - The Queen of Bangkok Streetfood
While being those Foodies we are; we couldn't imagine that after eating at no less than three Michelin Starred and highly-ranked restaurants on The Worlds 50 Best Restaurants list in Bangkok - one of the Best Food Epiphany Moments we'll carry with us for the rest of our lives would come from a tiny Lady in Ski Googles on a small Shop-House Restaurant!
This is our review eating at Raan Jay Fai - The Queen of Bangkok Streetfood!
This Awesome Lady! She totally rocks in her Ski Googles and we loved both the Jay Fai Food and fashion!
Streetfood Paradise Bangkok
Few of the world megacities are so full of inspiring Streetfood like Bangkok. Bangkok Streetfood has been developing for years and years and the way to serve food "Streetwise" have a long tradition.
It seems to be Streetfood and Street Vendors everywhere; in every corner, a Food stand and what's amazing is that almost wherever you eat everything is tasting genuine, and incredibly good!
During our stay in Bangkok, we also ate at several better restaurants - all executing top food and great service so after our break in Buriram and a tour to the Islands of Koh Chang and Koh Mak we headed back to the Capitol with some aces up our sleeves and for some real "feathers in the Chef Toque" and food memories for both of us.
Gaggan Progressive Indian Cuisine was one of them - read about our visit to Gaggan here - and also a visit to Paste did our last leg in Bangkok memorable. However; when we decided to have a go at; what was known as Bangkok's most expensive Streetfood at the time; we didn't expect what was coming.
RELATED POST: Streetfood Gems in Bangkok
One of Jay Fai's signature dishes is a fully packed Crab Omelette
Find Jay Fai in Bangkok
When we first read about Jay Fai it was in Bangkok Magazine and the review pointed out some flaws but we decided that this must be an iconic place to go. The prices mentioned in the article didn't scare us; we instead understood that Jay Fai's ingredients must be exceptional for those prices and the fact that Raan Jay Fai had been there for such a long time probably meant that Jay Fai "was the real thing"!
We found the address and got there by taxi. Booking Jay Fai was impossible, you just had to go there and hope the restaurant had seats free.
The line of people outside (what we thought was) the restaurant and where our taxi driver had put us off was huge...but something wasn't right. The crowd was young and the food that was put out seemed casual and in fact slabby. We directly discovered that this was the wrong place.
Raan Jay Fai was just a few houses away though. The shop-house restaurant was almost empty when we arrived beside a single table with two persons already eating. Did we doubt? Yes. Why were people lining up standing in a queue for the food at the first place and why was Raan Jay Fai almost empty?
We took our seats and looked at the Jay Fai menu and quickly decided to go for her signature dishes; the Crab Omelette and the Drunken Noodles.
And on stage - Madame Jay Fai! What can we say? As soon as she got our orders it was showtime!
Spoons sneaked out and around the open, tiny kitchen to have a close up at Jay Fai cooking. The two woks are outside on the right of the small shop-house; in the open - fired with charcoal - so actually Jay Fai stand and cook with her back to the tables. While filming with the GoPro and a wide smile on his face; Spoons was amazed and mesmerized!
With over 30 years working as a Chef; Spoons are quite experienced. But that's also how long this 71-year young lady has been standing there on the same spot; Monday to Saturday, every night rocking those woks! (I actually got goosebumps while writing this!) and it struck Spoon's Chef Heart! What an awesome Chef Jay Fai is! And the execution of those dishes was impeccable! The timing of adding ingredients, the technique and flow were remarkable.
Jay Fai preparing our second dish; the Drunken Noodles!
Back at the table, we dug into the Crab Omelette. A torpedo of the egg with a superthin, crispy outside and a succulent inside embracing white, big (huge!) chunks of crab meat, fully packed! If you have read the BK Magazine review they found this dish "slightly dry, lacking in flavour" when visiting Jay Fai. Well, so sorry for them if Jay Fai had a bad day or something because this omelette was out of this world! The best omelette ever. An explosion of crab flavour with the egg more likely to be "an excuse" to just bind this heavenly meat together, still moist and juicy. We slaughtered the omelette in no-time. Simply outstanding and fantastic.
While eating the omelette Sticks told Spoons that Jay Fai was hilarious in her gabber and friendly (?) nagging on her staff in Thai, while cooking, asking them to move, get things for her and giving them one or two gibe's that, "of course, me at age 71, have to do everything while you just standing still" or "I have just been standing here for 30 years for you not to get this out" and likely. A raw jargon but - we understood - still with a twinkle. Lovely!
Drunken Noodles - the size of those prawns! OMG!
Jay Fai - the Perfect Host
Back to the kitchen - Spoons filmed some more while Jay Fai prepared the Drunken Noodles and she totally Rocked those Woks the same way she had done when making the Crab Omelette! She does everything with such a timing! In the order of adding the ingredients for instance; fully aware of cooking time on each and every one of them to end up perfect in the finishing dish. Awe and admiration for her as a Chef was forever rooted seeing her cooking.
And the Drunken Noodles delivered as well! Sticky, hot, tasty, spicy and flavourful. The most memorable thing was the size of her prawns! The texture and taste added with the broth and sauce lifted the seafood flavour of the prawn making it incredible. All ingredients at Raan Jay Fai are of the highest quality and especially the seafood.
Story telling in the Jay Fai Kitchen! The perfect host!
After finishing the Drunken Noodles we just sat and shook our heads wondering what just had happened. This was as close to a perfect Thai meal we had come. No doubt. The two dishes - diverse as they were - had brought a perfect balance of tastes, aromas, textures and we just felt...GREAT!
We paid the bill to the waitress and realized that the star, the Queen of the evening had left the building. We thought we had to take a glance at the Kitchen from the outside once more and there she was; aside of the Kitchen on some crates with a bowl of food in front of her after the small but intense rush of food she had delivered to us and other guests during our dinner.
Spoons insisted that Sticks should tell her something about the Food Epiphany we had experienced eating her fantastic food in Thai. Sticks thought it would be rude to interrupt in her meal but Spoons insisted; we had this chance only to pay our respect for Chef Jay Fai so it had to be there and now.
What happened next was wonderful! Chef Jay Fai immediately put down her finished bowl of food and started talking with us, asking where we came from, what we thought of the food and said that we had to see her kitchen! A quick tour while she explained her simple philosophy by using only the best ingredients available - for her, there was no other option - so of course, she had to be what other called "expensive" which in her eyes wasn't expensive at all (we also could imagine what crab like that would cost to buy). During the twenty minutes of chatting with her and taking photos she also had time to tell us everything about her age (71 at the time of our visit), how long she had cooked (since the age of 11 - first just helping out but very soon starting with more hard tasks!) and that her father started the Raan 70 years ago but that she had been cooking there by herself the last 30 years, how many celebrities that had dined at her place, what she loved to do on Sundays when she was free (meeting her daughter for instance) and other trivial things about a day on Jay Fai's Life!
What a delightful person and host!
And was the visit expensive? No. In our opinion, you get what you pay for! And in that price, the Jay Fai Show is included!
We were happy to find that the YouTube phenomena Mark Wiens had been to Jay Fai - and had the two dishes we enjoyed so much too! He is such a great narrator of finding gems of Streetfood and he describes the dishes brilliant as always.
Check out this Mark Wiens video from Jay Fai! We must revisit her at Raan Jay Fai!
And with a small surprise, Jay Fai has been rewarded a Michelin star after our visit! Actually, we would reward her with a lot of stars after our experience! We heard she wasn't too fond of the star through which we can understand in a way. Being at the age of 72 years when opening the eyes of a Foodie and Gastronomy World can't be that easy to handle.
We hope that this success and acknowledgement don't break her spirit and drive to continue cooking! That would be so sad and we hope for happiness, health and great success in her life and that she is able to cook for many years to come blessing her guests with her fantastic food!
Sticks & Spoons will go to Thailand again this winter between 22nd of December and 12th of January and we really hope for a new Food Epiphany at Raan Jay Fai! What we know you couldn't book Jay Fai when we visited but rumours say Jay Fai now take booking!
Did you ever doubt that this is a 6/5 Sticks & Spoons recommendation?
If you are a Foodie like us our best advice is to take some of that Travel Budget of yours and put it on an experience of the Jay Fai Journey of great Thai Food while in Bangkok!
She's the Queen. Long may she reign!
// Sticks & Spoons
Find Jay Fai in Bangkok: