Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants has announced that legendary Bangkok chef Supinya Junsuta (better known as ‘Jay Fai’) is the recipient of the Icon Award – Asia 2021. 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 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy, the Icon Award honors
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 honors 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.
Accepting the Icon Award, Jay Fai says: "I am grateful to be recognized 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 omelet (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.
Born to Chinese immigrant parents, Jay Fai worked as a seamstress for 10 years until a fire destroyed her home and sewing equipment. Resilient and resourceful, she tapped into her culinary talents once she started working alongside her mother and sisters selling rice porridge and chicken noodles from their food cart. To distinguish herself from other street vendors, she devoted herself to developing new skills and recipes, as well as experimenting with premium seafood.
With single-minded determination, the self-taught cook mastered Japanese omelets and later used those techniques to create her signature crab dish. 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 25th March, which will be broadcast to a global audience via Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Facebook and the 50 Best Restaurants TV YouTube channel.