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​Thaikota: A Culinary Love Story

All About Food | July 13th, 2021

By Jon Wayne

jonwayneandthepain@gmail.com

15 July 2021

I first met TJ Edra in 2001 at cooking school in Moorhead. We hit it off immediately and became fast friends, then later roommates at a cool apartment in South Fargo. Most of those summers were spent doing BMX and skateboarding in our neighborhood near Island Park, drinking Old English 40 ounce malt beers and listening to Sublime. Those were some great days I think for both of us.

I was cooking at Hodo, and later at Cajun Cafe. TJ was cooking at Juano’s Mexican Restaurant at that time and had a number of other cooking positions later. TJ says "Being a cook we couldn't really be doing all that kind of stuff during the daytime, so you'd work your ass off all day, get done at work around 10 oclock then you wanna go be free and enjoy the world you know? So it's better to be outside drinking a 40 and grinding some ledges at Island Park. It was like living free in the world in our small town of Fargo.”

We both graduated from chef school in 2003.

TJ Worked with people from Thailand for 10 years at Wasabi in Downtown Fargo, doing mostly Japanese food but also started to learn some more about Thai cooking as well."Definitely Asian cuisine opened my mind when I started working with Asian/Thai people. I grew up seasoning with salt and pepper but when you work with Thai cooking they use a completely different way to salt things, sweeten things and add spice to things."

It was during this time at Wasabi that TJ met his future wife Gina,

She was born in Chiang Rai, Thailand and started to learn cooking from her grandmother when she was just a kid. She moved to Bangkok when she was 16 and worked in her auntie's restaurant there for years. When she was 25 she opened her own restaurant back in Chiang Rai, cooking with old-school, charcoal-style stir fry and Shabu. She moved to Fargo in 2013 to work for her auntie. I asked her what she thought about January weather in North Dakota.

Her response was "Oh my god, it's terrible. My body is not good for the weather here." I laughed out loud in agreement.

She met TJ that same year she moved to the US and they started dating a year later. I had moved to Thailand in 2018 and was lucky enough to be at their Thai wedding in Chiang Rai that summer. It was truly a great experience to see my good friend getting married to an awesome girl in a country that I loved so much.

Just a couple years later TJ quit his job at Wasabi and with his wife's recipes they emptied their savings account and opened their own restaurant. They named it Thaikota. The name choice I think is obvious, but what's not plain to see is that TJ had no expectation that the restaurant would even turn a profit in the first couple years.

However, Thaikota has been doing much more than breaking even. It has in just a few short months become the go-to place in the F-M area to get Thai food. It's been overwhelming for both TJ and Gina because the restaurant has been such a success and it's basically just the two of them cooking an insane amount of orders each day.

For myself I find it more often than not disappointing to eat Thai food in the U.S. Usually it's over-sugared and the spice balance is rarely on point. I'm not sure if that's because some American Thai restaurants try to dumb down the flavors to accomodate to what they think we would like or if it’s because they stopped trying to make the food taste right and they just dont give a shit.

Either way, that is not happening at Thaikota. The food and story behind it I think are equally inspiring. Their menu also reflects specifically northern Thai food makes me really happy. Bottom line, their food is absolutely delicious and I can't wait to eat there again the next time I come through Fargo.

"I love my restaurant now, because me and my husband TJ do it all by ourselves." said Gina.

After many years and hoops to jump through, Gina became a U.S. citizen on June 7th.

It's a love story. Both with great food and two amazing people finding their path together in life.

Most popular traditional Thai menu items:

Drunken Mama (spicy dried ramen noodle dish)

Pad Thai (classic rice noodle dish with peanuts & chicken)

Most popular northern Thai dishes:

Khao Soi Gai (chicken curry with egg noodles)

Gaeng Hung Lay (pork belly curry)

_______________

YOU SHOULD KNOW

Thaikota

1201 1st Ave N, Fargo, (701) 282-4851

(inside Holiday Station stores)

Monday-Saturday: 11am-2pm, 4-8pm

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