Delicious Northern Thai and more
You’ll find Southern, Central and Northeastern Thai food on practically every Bangkok street, but Northern Thai kitchens aren’t so easy to come by. Down a quiet soi off Sukhumvit, Gedhawa’s traditional Lanna decor in a homely air-con dining room sets the stage for good Northern Thai dishes at prices that are lower than we’d expect.
Draped in greenery and terracotta bricks on a mostly residential street, Gedhawa’s exterior could be mistaken for an art gallery or spa. A small and mossy courtyard with a dark-wood Lanna-style spirit house and fountain successfully transports you from Bangkok’s modern chaos to the quiet elegance of Northern Thailand.
Inside, a couple of soft-spoken women offered a welcome that was as good as at any pricey restaurant, before guiding us into a relaxing dining space with turquoise tile floors, Lanna banners and murals of old Northern Thai village scenes. Tables with rattan place mats are set far enough apart to make this a fine choice for a date, with wooden chairs painted dark blues, greens and reds.
Though the specialty is Northern Thai fare, Gedhawa’s charming (and long) scroll menu includes a number of dishes rooted in other parts of Thailand. In fact, this is one of the only proper restaurants we can think of where you can sample five different dishes from five different Thai regions in a single meal. Craving the North’s underrated flavours, however, we flipped straight back to the considerable selection of Northern dishes.
We had hoped to start with that staple Northern curry noodle dish, khao soi, but a pair of Japanese diners had just ordered the last of it (we arrived shortly before the afternoon closing time). It looked good, and friends have said that it’s as solid a version as you’ll find in Bangkok, with a relatively light broth and tender chicken legs.
Instead we started with laap mueang muu, Northern Thailand’s dry-spiced edition of the chopped pork “salad” that, at least in Bangkok, is more often served Isaan style (the word “mueang” signals the Northern variation). It was a slightly watered down version, lacking the blood and offal found in upcountry laap mueang, but there was plenty of pork liver. The strong flavour of makwaen, a rustic peppery spice found mostly in Northern Thai food, joined Vietnamese basil, cilantro, roasted chillies and fried shallots for an enjoyable start.
We also ordered two Northern-style stews. A bit sweet for our tastes, gaeng hed tob was served here as a mild red curry chock full of hard-to-find button mushrooms, cha-om leaf, coconut stems and chicken. The star of the meal was yum jin gai, a spicy and very flavourful stew with strips of roasted chicken and more of the makwaen. Both dishes were presented in shiny brass bowls and were very generous on portion size.
For “dessert,” we added an order of the exotic ab kai mod daeng, a sort of omelette stuffed with tiny red ant eggs and spices, grilled in a banana leaf package. Going heavy on the lemongrass, it burst with complex flavours that were similar to a tasty Northern Thai sausage, or sai oua. All of that spice overpowered the subtle earthy flavour of the white ant eggs, which really are quite enjoyable once you get used to the sensation of them popping between your teeth.
Gedhawa offers dozens of other Northern Thai selections, including staple pounded relishes like nam prik ong and nam prik neum, served with veggies and crackling pork skin for dipping. We’ve also heard good things about their gaeng hang lae, a rich curry with roasted pork belly. Most dishes run from only 100 to 200 baht, very reasonable considering the portions, comfortable setting and service that was fast and attentive.
To get here, take the BTS skytrain to Phrom Phong station, head west past Emporium on the skywalk and take the stairs down to the street at Exit 5, which is right next to the beginning of Soi 35. Walk up the soi for around a half-kilometre and keep an eye out for Gedhawa’s nondescript frontage on the right (east) side of the street.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
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