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Thai Street Food ‘Queen' Wins Michelin Star Award

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Bangkok, Thailand, is known for having some of the best street food in the world. Now, one street seller is being officially recognized for her tasty creations.

The roadside restaurant Jay Fai in Bangkok was recently awarded a star in the highly respected Michelin Guide to restaurants around the world. Officials from the guide visit restaurants and then give them a rating of 1 to 3 stars, based on overall quality.

Jay Fai is like many other street eateries across Bangkok. It servers a variety of Thai dishes in simple surroundings.

The owner and main cook is 72-year-old Fai Junsuta. She prepares the food in an open-air kitchen. She does all of the cooking in a couple of large pans called woks, and wears special glasses to protect her eyes from an endless stream of smoke.

The Michelin Guide describes her restaurant as “a place that both taxi drivers and foodies wax lyrical about.” It says that some of the restaurant’s most popular food items are crab omelets, crab curries and dried congee.

Many restaurants wait years to receive Michelin stars. But Fai Junsuta says was not aware of the honor before being chosen.

Chef Fai Junsuta from the Jay Fai street food restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand poses for a photograph with the Michelin Guide Bangkok 2018 at the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok. (Michelin Guide Thailand)
Chef Fai Junsuta from the Jay Fai street food restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand poses for a photograph with the Michelin Guide Bangkok 2018 at the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok. (Michelin Guide Thailand)

'Before, I knew the Michelin name but I did not know it had to do with cooking,' she told Agence France-Presse. 'I am very proud.'

But she added that she would quickly be returning to the kitchen after attending an awards ceremony. 'We do not have a lot of staff because I'm a bit difficult and crazy,' she said.

Jay Fai was one of 17 restaurants chosen for the first-ever Michelin Guide for Bangkok.

Three of the city’s restaurants – serving Indian, French and European food - received two stars. The others – seven of which are Thai restaurants - received one star. Many other eateries, including 28 street food places, are also included in the guide, but they did not receive any stars.

In announcing the selections, Michelin said Bangkok has learned how to successfully offer many kinds of international cooking styles without giving up its own food heritage.

Thailand’s Tourism Authority signed a partnership with Michelin to create the Bangkok guide.

A street vendor cooks food on a street in central Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, April 22, 2016. In Bangkok, street food remains the heart and soul of local cuisine, sold day and night from carts and makeshift stands. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A street vendor cooks food on a street in central Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, April 22, 2016. In Bangkok, street food remains the heart and soul of local cuisine, sold day and night from carts and makeshift stands. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

The partnership followed an announcement last year that Thai officials planned to ban street food sellers in Bangkok in an effort to clean up the city.

The government later backed away from its plans to completely remove all street food vendors. But officials did tighten some rules to prevent sellers from blocking traffic and people.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from Reuters, Agence France-Presse and other sources. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

Where have you eaten the best street food? Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

wok n. large, bowl-shaped pan used for cooking

wax lyrical phrase. talk about something in a very enthusiastic way

staff n. people who work at an organization

heritage n. the traditions, achievements, beliefs, etc., that are part of the history of a group or nation

vendor n. person who sells something outside

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