Gedhawa – Northern Thai cuisine in the heart of Bangkok

The latest restaurant I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing for Thailand Tatler for the upcoming “Thailand’s Best Restaurants 2014” publication is Gedhawa.

In Northern Thai the direct translation of Gedhawa is “gardenia”, and the botanical theme is apparent with the numerous flowering plants at the entrance and dining area of this charming town house, tucked away in a normally busting area of Sukhumvit. Gedhawa serves authentic Thai food with emphasis on dishes from the northern region of the country (think Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai area). This style of food draws heavy influence from neighbouring Burma, often using spices not commonly found in other Thai regional dishes.

Gedhawa

The menu selection at Gedhawa is expansive, but I would advise sticking with Northern Thai dishes. “Nam Phrik” is a traditional dipping sauce found throughout Thailand and is made by pounding copious amounts of chilli, garlic, shallot, lime juice and shrimp into a paste. “Nam Phrik Ong” (the northern version of this dish) has the addition of minced pork and tomato, a crude description could compare this to an Italian bolognese sauce spiked with big hitting Thai flavours. This particular version was served with a selection of blanched and raw vegetables (including pumpkin, wingbeans, cucumber, carrot, cabbage and morning glory) as well as some delightfully crisp and airy pork crackling skin. Not as robust as other nam phrik I’ve sampled in Thailand and could have done with larger quantities of chilli, garlic and fish sauce to really elevate the flavours.

Nam Phrik Ong

We chose to accompany the nam phrik with a dish commonly sold by street vendors in Chiang Mai, “Sai Oua”. This pork based sausage is mixed with herbs, spices and kaeng khua (red curry paste) before being piped into a pigs intestine. For those interested the direct translation is “intestine” (sai) and “stuffed” (oua). This particular sai oua offered a pleasantly healthy punch of fragrant lemongrass that contrasted well with the fatty pork meat.

Sai Oua

Moving on to main dishes and Gedhawa’s “Khao Soi” didn’t quite live up to expectations of the same dish eaten in Chiang Mai. Essentially a spicy chicken curry cooked with plenty of coconut milk (a novel ingredient not commonly used in northern cooking), and not too dissimilar to kaeng lueang (Thai yellow curry), although of thinner consistency. Served with soft, boiled egg noodles inside the curry and garnished with crispy fried egg noodles for contrasting texture. Heavy use of cinnamon and not enough richness from the coconut milk was the downfall here, although with the addition of accompanying  pickled cucumber, shallot and lime juice it was still a tasty dish.

Khao Soi

The truly memorable dish of the night had to be “Kaeng Hang-lai”, a deeply robust and savoury curry influenced by neighbouring country, Burma. Made by braising pork belly with large amounts of dried chilli paste, garlic, ginger, peanuts and tamarind until the meat barely holds its form, we’re talking hours of love here people. The curry is topped with yet more fresh julienne ginger to just enough freshness when eating. My dinner companion remarked that, “kaeng hang-lai is the undiscovered kaeng massaman of the Thai curry world”, and I couldn’t agree more.

Kaeng Hang-lai

Desserts remain traditional and lighter offerings included “Dtaeng Thai Sakoo Nam Cheuam”, seasonal honeydew melon with lightly sweetened sugar syrup sorbet and tapioca pearls. Slightly more unusual was “Salacca Zalacca”, or more commonly known in Thailand as “Salak” (snake fruit), in an iced sugar syrup. The salak flesh is at first sweet, like honey (maybe due to the syrup it bathes in) but continue to chew and you’re hit with an almost acrid sourness. Weird, but strangely addictive. We finished the bowl.

IMG_1004

On this visit I only sampled dishes traditionally from the northern region of Thailand so can’t speak for plates on offer from other regions, but for those not too familiar with this particular style of Thai cuisine then Gedhawa is a great place to start. Humble, home cooked style food with very affordable prices in a lovely ageing town house setting. It’s like sitting down for supper at grandma’s house, well if grandma happens to be a dab hand in the kitchen and originally from the northern region of Thailand.

Gedhawa – 24 Sukhumvit Soi 35, Bangkok

Reviewed for Thailand Tatler “Thailand’s Best Restaurants 2014” (20/02/2014).

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