Thailand is a good example of the global food service industry. It is a country where abundant sources, wide categories, and global consumption power gather. In December of last year, I visited Thailand in perfect weather during the dry season. If the time I spent in Thailand was a trip for light rest and food, this time it was definitely an opportunity to learn cooking from the masters of Thailand’s regional food culture. Of course, with the addition of being able to understand cultural tendencies and idiosyncrasies.
From Le Du, the next-generation chef representing Thailand, Ton, who took first place this year in ‘Asia’s Best Restaurants’, to inexpensive and delicious street food. Among the many restaurants in Thailand, there is a unique existence that is difficult to understand and explain only with a logical approach such as capital and branding. Jay Fai, who was also introduced in Netflix’s ‘Chefs on the Road’ in 2019, is the main character. As the first chef to make Thai street food, he was listed as a 1-star in the Michelin Guide in 2018.
The 77-year-old chef of Chepai, Raan Jay Fai, is an icon of Thai gastronomy. “Chef’s chef” respected by local chefs. Not only is he one of the most experienced chefs in Thailand, but he is also a symbol of creativity, tenacity and perseverance. His restaurant is always crowded with people from all over the world waiting in line from 7 am to get a numbered ticket to taste Chappai’s food (from celebrities such as Zac Efron and Park Bo-gum to business magnates such as Marwin and Tim Cook).
Chappai, which opens at 2:30 pm and turns off the wok at 12:00 pm, is no longer just a street vendor’s cook making street food. Bangkok is also undergoing a lot of changes on the roads of an increasingly modernized city, and street vendors are also managed by sanitary and policy guidance. Chef Chepai broke through the turbulent period in which tradition and modern elements collided in a straight line. His cuisine contains countless crises, bold decisions, and challenges in his life.
Born in a slum, worked as a seamstress for 10 years
In his life, which started in a slum, there was a mother who sold chicken noodles in the market and a father who was addicted to opium. Che Pai, who became a seamstress at an early age to take care of his household, worked as a seamstress for 10 years, using fabric, thread, and a sewing machine. As he began to collect money little by little, the space where he worked as a seamstress was burned down due to an unexpected explosion, and he experienced a new bottom of despair. How cruel is the reality of being in your 20s, where everything except the pajamas you were wearing are gone.
Eventually, he started to step into the kitchen by helping his mother run a chicken noodle restaurant. On a night when everyone fell asleep due to his awkward technique, he practiced frying noodles while holding a cast iron wok, which was heavy for his small body. Thanks to his tenacity, he took on the responsibility of cooking, following in the footsteps of his mother. Thanks to the creativity and passion to create something different from others, he took out a loan and started receiving expensive, large and fresh shrimp, and made a rich and delicious pad thai with it and presented it as a menu. He started to upgrade the perception of street food with a strategy using expensive ingredients.
Over 100 menu items… unique recipesCurrently, there are about 100 menus that Chepai chefs can create. Of course, standing in line to taste it is a situation where you can pick stars from the sky, but among these, the must-try menus include clear tom yum soup, fried crab omelet, and drunken noodles.
When I first started running Chepai, most of the customers came from bars and gambling halls. They used to watch them cook and sometimes take out their food메이저놀이터. Chepai always creates new menus by adding applications, but I got an idea from a Japanese omelet and tried a playful twist.
Just as Koreans love hangover soup, Thais also love it as a hangover item. Drunken noodles called ‘Pat Ki Mao’ are rich in seafood and thick, sticky noodles are added to satisfy the balance of taste and quantity. The flavor of charcoal fire added to garlic and basil, salty and spicy flavors, and the taste created by his secret sauce that adds subtle sweetness can only be tasted at Jjapai. In addition, dry tom yum, crab curry, fried vermicelli and seafood are popular.
A living legend… beautiful veins on the forearmChepai, which made an unconventional appearance as a Michelin 1 star in 2018, was the only one to attend the awards ceremony after closing the store for a day. The smile on his face was so beautiful when he said that he was very happy because he felt recognized for his hard life. As she cooks every day in front of a charcoal fire, turning a heavy cast iron wok by herself, the veins on her forearms and her strong muscles are invaluable evidence that represents her life as it is. These days, he adjusts his business day for his health, and he quits his job to help his daughter run the restaurant. Thanks to the activities of Thai chefs, Chappai, many changes have occurred in the Thai government’s negative prejudice and policies regarding the street food industry.
Chapai is no longer just a Michelin-starred chef, but a cultural icon of Thai gastronomy. He said he was dreaming of retiring in the next few years and would close the shop without passing it on to his children or successors. There is not much time left to line up on a Thai street from early hours to taste his cuisine that will become a living legend.
I express my deep gratitude to Chepai’s daughter for taking additional photos and sending them to me for the first official interview in Korea.