Bangkok Post reviews
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: September 21, 2012 at 8:54 am
Gedhawa restaurant impresses with a mix of fiery chilli and upcountry aromas
Nam phrik pla jee , a chilli dip made with fish meat and served with fresh vegetables.
A craving for the nuclear heat of southern Thai food has steered Ung-aang Talay to so many southern food shops recently that when some friends suggested a visit to Gedhawa, a restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 35 that specialises in northern cuisine, U-a T leapt at the opportunity for a change.
Gedhawa is northern Thai for "gardenia", and the botanical theme is borne out in the many flowering plants set both at the entrance to the restaurant and in the dining area inside. The dining room is busily decorated with hangings, trellises, and knick-knacks in glass cases, but the atmosphere is relaxed and the tables are spaced at a comfortable distance from each other. U-a T and a friend took seats at one of them and picked up the rather unruly, concertinaed menus, which listed a large selection of both northern and central Thai dishes.
U-a T and friend focused on the northern offerings, and asked for kaeng hanglay (a pork curry), northern-style laab khua moo (a spicy minced pork dish), kaeng khae (a vegetable soup-like dish), yam som o sai nam poo (a pomelo salad with fermented crab sauce), and nam phrik pla jee (a chilli dip made with fish meat and served with fresh vegetables).
The northern-style laab khua moo or spicy minced pork dish.
First to arrive was the kaeng hanglay, which had been prepared in a way that was new to U-a T. It was extremely thick, almost paste-like in consistency, and potently seasoned, with a strong bite of chilli. This curry is often comparatively mild, with pieces of pork belly meat swimming in sauce thinner than this and with a thick layer of oil floating on top. Here the oil was at a minimum, despite the fattiness of the pork, which had been richly flavoured by the sauce. Peanuts, usually included in the recipe, were absent here, and the small items that U-a T mistook for peanuts turned out to be garlic cloves that had been simmered to an appealing mildness and tenderness. Very nice, and recommended.
Nam phrik pla jee is a country-style recipe that resembles familiar nam phrik noom with pieces of grilled fish meat mixed in. Heat from the roasted chillies was nicely balanced by the flavour and aroma of shallots and garlic, with a whiff of fresh coriander. Gedhawa, served very attractively in a miniature stone mortar, was accompanied by fresh and lightly boiled vegetables that included pumpkin squash, cauliflower, bamboo shoots, carrots and long beans, among others. Give this a try.
Less successful was the kaeng khae, although through no fault of the kitchen. This soup-like dish varies from season to season as the herbs used to make it, usually gathered in the fields, disappear and are replaced by others. Ung-aang Talay and friend spotted the heart of coconut palm, cha-om and tamlueng leaves, and eggplants called makhuea poh and makhuea phuang, among other vegetables, together with slices of white chicken meat in the version served on this occasion. Because of a powerful and unconquerable aversion, U-a T had requested that the kitchen omit the aromatic leaf called bai chaphluu, normally an important ingredient, and in doing this sabotaged the dish, which came across as bland and uninteresting, despite the appealing variety of veggie textures. Unfair, however, to criticise it because of a request that betrayed the authentic recipe.
In ordering the yam som o, or pomelo salad, U-a T and friend asked for the version made with nam poo, a kind of northern counterpart to kapi, made by cooking field crabs down to a thick black paste. The smell of the condiment added such an appealing accent to the combined flavours and aromas of the pomelo, sliced lemongrass, and chillies without overwhelming them, that for U-a T it was a highlight of the meal, together with the nam phrik. Gedhawa served it on a sheet of fresh lettuce with an ornamental star cut from a carrot.
From past experience, U-a T had somehow gotten the impression that northern-style laab was milder than its very different Isan relative, perhaps influenced by the unforgettable Phayao-style version once served at the sorely-missed Kham Waan restaurant. Gedhawa's laab khua moo quickly disabused U-a T of this mistake, as it starts hot and then gets hotter. The fieriness doesn't come as a surprise, because warning is given by the whole, dried, red, phrik khee nuu chillies mixed into it. Pieces of spring onion and chunks of pork liver add their flavours, and crisp, obliquely-cut slices of, U-a T suspects, phak boong liven up the texture.
The laab shared its platter with an array of leaf vegetables, including the nutty, slightly astringent phak phraew and bai makawk, which U-a T's table companion noted taste a bit like tender mango leaves, together with the more usual cucumber, lettuce, wing beans, and raw chilli.
Service is efficient, polite, and, should you have questions about the food, informative. Prices are mid-range. The meal for two described above, without alcohol, came to under 900 baht.