Writing Prompts

#A to Z Challenge 04-20-21 Marijuana on the Menu

R=Restaurants featuring Cannabis Cuisine

Photo credit: Atlas Obscura

In Thailand, cooking with marijuana is about umami and taste, not necessarily getting stoned. However, you might still enjoy the effects of CBD and it’s many benefits.

Welcome to Ban Lao Reung, the country of Thailand’s first restaurant to serve dishes made with cannabis. Located in Prachinburi, the eatery recently started to use the parts of the cannabis plant that contained less than 0.2 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which includes the leaves, stalks, stems, and roots in many of their dishes.

Although marijuana was legal in Thailand for centuries, international pressures made the previously Class 5 narcotic illegal in 1934, yet older customers of the restaurant had been eating it in their food for years. Now, with the drug decriminalized since 2018, Ban Lao Reung can legally serve the flavor-enhancing substance once again in soups, garnishes, and beverages.

It can also be used in cosmetics, but this story is about the food, and the restaurants making cannabis the star ingredient on the menu. The director of the community-outreach program linked to the restaurant mentioned above is Sombat Kowtraul, whose 94-year old mom said cannabis was used in the family since she was a kid. “Her parents used to send her to buy it at the market!”

In Thailand’s oldest cookbook from 1908, the “tender ganja leaves” were used in an eel-curry recipe. However, the use of the plant as medicine goes back much further, likely as far as the Sukothai Kingdom (1239-1438) says Dr. Waleerat Kraikosol, the Deputy Medical Director of Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital, the country’s premier institution for traditional Thai medicine.

Talk about marijuana to a Thai, and she will think more likely of noodle soup rather than bongs or blunts. She would say that it is like MSG, it improves the taste of most dishes.

Garnishing a Soup with dried cannabis leaves at Ban Lao Reung (left); Sombat Kowtraul, director, and Amara Akamanon, manager.

Another restaurant in the region of Bangkok, Thailand- Rod Dee Ded- features noodle soups at the chain all across Bangkok. The owner said her dad used to use cannabis in the soups 40 years ago, yet she wasn’t sure he knew what he was doing, except to say that science tells us that parts of the plant, have glutamic acid, which gives the tongue the ability to taste more flavor in food.

The amino acid provides a boost of unami, the pleasantly savory “round” taste sometimes referred to as the fifth flavor. Research has shown that the leaves of the marijuana plant contain a higher concentration of glutamic acid than Parmesan cheese (a food generally considered to have high levels of unami).

The owner of Rod Dee Ded – Sittichan Vuttipornkul – says since the ban was lifted, he has been able to re-introduce the noodle-soup recipe featuring marijuana leaves, which have been dry-roasted, and ground into a subtly fragrant powder as a condiment or uses the dried roots and branches of the plant to the beef broth. “In the past, people didn’t have MSG, so they used cannabis” quotes Sittichai.

The manager at BAn Lao Reung, Amara Akamanon, has created a menu of dishes that are positively packed with unami flavor, like a savory stir-fry of minced pork, holy basil leaves, and dried marijuana leaves; a savory, tart, tom yam-like soup of pork, Thai herbs and marijuana-leaf powder; and a downright meaty dish of fresh marijuana leaves, battered and deep-fried tempura-style and served with a Thai dip.

A drink of tea, passionfruit juice, and freshly juiced raw marijuana leaves at Ban Lao Reung (left) and their tempura marijuana leaves (right).

Although edible, these dishes are not to be considered “edibles” because you would have to eat gargantuan portions to feel any kind of high. Medicinal marijuana proponents tout the alleged benefits of CBD present in these dishes, however, in Thailand the goal is flavor, and what could be more Thai than that?

It’s 4/20 yall, so I just had to feature a story about marijuana somehow!! I hope you enjoyed it, and feel free to explore the perfectly legal parts of the marijuana plant in your own cooking if you are so inclined. If you can find a source, that is. 😉


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11 thoughts on “#A to Z Challenge 04-20-21 Marijuana on the Menu

  1. I make lemon and poppy seed cake and it is delicious, and it is true that if elite athletes eat food with poppy seeds in it before their drugs test that it will show up.
    I’m not sure about marijuana in food, but interesting to hear how it is used elsewhere in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

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