1,000 Baht Omelet: ‘Jay Fai’ The Street-Food Legend
Bangkok is a culinary wonderland. You don’t have to be a food enthusiast to feel the excitement surrounding the gastronomic adventure the City of Angels has to offer. What stands out among every other, though, is the assortment of Bangkok’s street food. No matter what area you may be in, visitors often find themselves bewildered by the array of edibles among the streets.
Some places may be small or look worn out, but don’t be fooled by the appearance. With competition left and right, mediocre food is weeded out easily, and only the best survives. Most of the spots that are frequented even by locals often have been fixing up their famous dishes at the same locale for a very long time, and this one place has always been the talk of the town.
Jay Fai is one of the chefs today that still opts for the classic cooking technique and uses time-honored recipes. She still uses charcoal, not electric or gas; she uses skills, not MSG. The 70-something-year-old has been manning the works for over 35 years now, ever since there was no sky trains, traffic jams, or massive shopping malls. She has been cooking every dish herself, Monday to Saturday, and has never missed a day. With over tens and thousands of hours of experience, we can easily say she knows what she’s doing.
The restaurant is called Raan Jay Fai (ร้านเจ๊ไฝ), or loosely translated as Sister Mole’s Restaurant, as “Jay Fai” is a nickname given to her, as “Jay” is slang for “strong mafia type woman” and “Fai” for mole. It is located at Pratu Phi (ประตูผี) in the Old Town right next to the ever so popular and packed Pad-Thai Thipsamai and opens late till 2 am. When you walk into the restaurant and spot a woman in the open kitchen with bright red lips, wearing a beanie and oversized goggles, that’s her.
Fans of Jay Fai knows all too well about the startling element in every dish that is served in the joint. Order the Pad Kee Mao Talay or Seafood Drunkard’s Noodle, and you will be served with jumbo-sized shrimps, gigantic lumps of crabmeat, generous rings of squid, and delicious perfectly charred noodles and vegetables. Order the Khai Jiew Poo, or Crab Omelet, and be greeted by a torpedo-shaped omelet that is golden and crispy on the outside and filled with more lumps crabmeat you can ever ask for. There’s just enough egg to bind the dish together, and it's more of a generous crab cake if you ask me.
But along with the insane size and portion of fresh ingredients, comes the remarkable price as well. The dishes above clocks in at THB 400-500 and THB 800-1000 respectively. That’s jaw-dropping considering it’s on par with fancier bistros in town and unorthodox given the label “street food” often is conceived as wallet friendly. It’s not a stretch to say, however, that this is the beauty of Raan Jay Fai.
There’s always a debate going on whether or not the food is worth its price. But Raan Jay Fai is more than just your regular “Raan Tam Sung”, or Made-to-Order stir-fry kitchens you can find anywhere. She takes pride in her work, loves in the ingredients she uses, and believes the customers are paying for what is truly good. Jay Fai has no intentions on passing on the business to the next generation, so come and experience such iconic eatery before its gone. Sure, the price is steep, but I personally think it’s worth it.