Legendary Bangkok chef Supinya Junsuta (better known as ‘Jay Fai’) is the recipient of the Icon Award – Asia 2021 in this year’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Dubbed the queen of Thai street food, Jay Fai has been cooking at her open-air shophouse for over 40 years, turning her modest restaurant into a coveted destination for gourmets, chefs, celebrities and VIPS from within Thailand and from across the world.
Voted for by the 300-plus members of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, the Icon Award honours culinary figures who have made an outstanding contribution to their community and the broader restaurant industry. The announcement of the Icon Award precedes the unveiling of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, which takes place on 25th March to help support and promote the hospitality sector across the region.
Jay Fai honours Bangkok’s much-admired street food culture by sourcing only premium ingredients for her dishes and applying cooking techniques she has developed over decades. One Bangkok Post food critic noted that the chef has the ability to “transform very ordinary, lunchtime-at-the-market dishes into masterpieces of local cuisine”. The 76-year-old’s celebrity status was reinforced in 2019 when Netflix launched its Street Food: Asia series and devoted its premiere episode to the veteran cook.
William Drew, Director of Content for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, says: “A purist with a passion for blending culinary traditions with innovation, Jay Fai embodies the spirit of Asian gastronomy. Her unwavering dedication to her craft has earned her the respect of her peers and makes her a worthy recipient of this year’s Icon Award. The upcoming Essence of Asia collection, unveiled on 16th March, honours similar culinary pioneers in Asia who have had a positive impact on their communities or have enhanced their local food scene.”
Accepting the Icon Award, Jay Fai says: “I am grateful to be recognised for my hard work and craftsmanship. This is truly the reward of a lifetime for an ordinary chef like me. But most importantly, I hope everyone can learn from my story that dedication, hard work and patience can help you achieve your goals.”
While the menu at her Raan Jay Fai restaurant includes personal interpretations of popular Thai dishes such as yellow crab curry (poo pad phong karee), drunken noodles with seafood (pad kee mao talay) and tom yum soup, the chef has gained worldwide attention for her lauded crab meat omelette (khai jiao poo).
Featuring an abundance of the highest quality crab in the city wrapped in a crispy fried egg casing, the dish – priced at THB1000 [US$31] – has attained iconic status in its own right. Cooking every item herself, Jay Fai stirs flaming iron woks over charcoal fires while wearing her signature black apron, beanie cap and ski goggles to protect herself from the scalding oil and searing heat.
Despite charging higher prices than other street food vendors, Jay Fai has attracted a devoted following with her generous portions, impeccable food quality and exuberant energy.
In 2018, Raan Jay Fai became the first and only street food venue in Thailand to earn a Michelin star. Her sole focus, however, remains serving the queues of diners who flock nightly to her seven-table restaurant. Rather than compromise the integrity, authenticity or quality of each dish, she remains the restaurant’s only cook. As the 2021 recipient of the Icon Award, Jay Fai joins a prestigious line-up of recent winners, including Japanese chefs Seiji Yamamoto and Yoshihiro Murata.
Her achievement will be highlighted as part of the online ceremony for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021 on March 25, which will be broadcast to a global audience via Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Facebook and the 50 Best Restaurants TV YouTube channel.