City street eats not made for ordinary folk

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Some call it street food, but Jay Fai’s signature crab omelette costs 800 baht and doesn’t qualify – Michelin star notwithstanding.
Photo: Jetjaras Na Ranong

Jubilation for “street food” restaurant owner Jay Fai, who earned a prestigious Michelin Star last month, has ended in a twist.

The award has put the eatery, and some others, on the connoisseurs’ map of the world.

Among the long list of international chefs expected to be awarded one or two stars in the Michelin Guide Bangkok, Jay Fai’s was the only street food joint to make its way to international fame overnight after winning a star.

Unsurprisingly, Jay Fai has since come to the attention of many international media outlets in past weeks. Surprisingly, her food shop appeared in a newspaper in Germany, where people are arguably not as interested in gastronomy as in say France or Italy.

Media attention is a huge booster for the domestic tourism industry as a Michelin-starred outlet enjoys longer waiting lists. 

The twist for Jay Fai is that she is also being haunted by the taxman. Frustrated, she told Ariane Sutthavong-Kupferman, a Bangkok Post writer, that she wished to return the star (although her daughter later retracted this statement via other media channels).

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is now keeping its fingers crossed that every baht of the 144-million-baht-budget to attract global food certification firm Michelin Guide to rate establishments in Thailand from 2017-21 will yield benefits.

I don’t mind the budget the TAT used in the campaign, but it is still interesting to see how the TAT and City Hall — which previously took a tough stance against street food — have tried to promote the capital as a gastronomic destination while locals have continued the struggle to access affordable, clean food.

But whether Jay Fai’s eatery can be categorised as a street food establishment is a debate in itself. It is well known that her joint is not for just any passerby given the costly menu. Even before she gained Michelin recognition, her shop, despite its modest location, attracted patrons who mostly arrive in expensive cars.

No low-income earners on the 300-baht minimum wage could afford her famous crab omelette that costs at least 800 baht or a dish of rad na (noodles in gravy) that starts from 200 baht.

This is a different story from the two food stalls in Singapore which won the prestigious stars in July last year. 

“Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle” and “Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle” were among 29 dining venues to feature in the new Singapore guide.

The two stalls were among over 100 open-air hawker centres and 6,000 stalls selling food in city-state.

Read full article at Bangkok Post: https://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/1390022/city-street-eats-not-made-for-ordinary-folk

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