Traditional Thai cannabis cooking is back on the menu

Restaurants in Thailand are bringing an old tradition back to the table: cooking with cannabis.

Driven underground by some of the toughest drug laws in the world, cooking with cannabis has a long history in the region – and now a second life, as the ruling junta continues to decriminalize the plant.

“When you have something tasty, [cannabis] makes it better,” Chakree Lapboonruang, a Bangkok resident whose father cooked with cannabis, told The Economist. “It’s like msg, except it’s natural.”

From crime to money: The appearance of cannabis restaurants is perhaps just the most obvious – and delicious – benefit of the loosening of regulations, which the government hopes will create new economic opportunities in a world ravaged by the pandemic.

“When the economy picks up and we don’t have new products as alternatives, people will continue to do the same things and compete with each other,” Thailand’s Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said at an event. launch of cannabis in December 2021. , reported the Bangkok Post.

“But if we give them a choice, they can learn to take advantage of it, creating new products and business models, which in turn will accelerate economic recovery.”

It’s a dramatic about-face for a nation that has some of the toughest drug laws in the world.

Driven underground by some of the toughest drug laws in the world, cooking with cannabis has a long history in the region – and now a second life, as Thailand’s ruling junta decriminalizes the plant.

Thailand has a massive prison population (at least, massive by non-US standards), many of them low-level drug users, and it has waged a war on drugs brutal enough to draw the attention of Human Rights Watch.

So when the military government legalized medical cannabis in 2018, it was seen as a potential game changer not only in Thailand, but also in Southeast Asia, where the country’s neighbors, such as Singapore and the Philippines, have equally draconian drug policies.

And the junta went further. First, the low-THC parts of the plant – namely the stems, leaves, roots and twigs – were removed from the list of Category 5 narcotics. Then an even more dramatic step was taken in December last, announcing the decriminalization of flowers and buds, the part of the plant that, you know, you are stoned with.

“What we have achieved so far is to declare that the stems, roots, leaves and sprigs of cannabis are not drugs. Starting next year, we will remove everything – stems, roots, sprigs, leaves, buds, flowers and seeds – from the list of narcotics,” Anutin reported in the Post.

It won’t be open season, however; certain restrictions will still apply, just as they do in some US states where pot is legal. THC content will be capped, and you’ll need government permission to grow plants, the Post reported.

“While we are going to completely legalize all parts of the cannabis plant for commercial use next year, it will still be with a lot of caveats,” entrepreneur and legalization advocate Kitty Chopaka told VICE.

But cannabis cooking, which has long simmered under the lids of private pots, is already in the culinary spotlight.

Cannabis has high levels of glutamic acid – the ingredient responsible for the savory umami flavor.

Cooking Cannabis is back to the menu: Thailand’s heritage of cannabis cooking is there in what is believed to be its oldest cookbook, Mae Khrua Hua Pa from 1908. The recipe for eel curry from the cookbook, writes Austin Bush of Atlas Obscura , calls for “tender ganja leaves”.

Entrepreneurs reincorporating this classic ingredient were well aware of its delicious potential. Bangkok noodle shop owner Sittichan Vuttipornkul, whose Rod Dee Ded has several locations in the city, told Bush that his own father incorporated cannabis into the family’s soups as a child.

“My dad said he used [cannabis] in the soup when I was a child, at least 40 years ago. He points out that the glutamic acid content of the plant may be the key to its gastronomic appeal. “It gives our tongues the ability to taste more flavor in food.”

Glutamic acid gives foods that highly prized, savory, full-bodied “umami” flavor – and you have definitively eaten before, in the form of MSG.

At the Rod Dee Ded noodle shop, dried cannabis roots and branches – which have found new value after being considered mere waste – are added to beef broth, and dry-roasted, powdered leaves, are in the condiments. Ban Lao Reung, a restaurant in Prachinburi that Bush visited, incorporated cannabis into pork stir-fries and soups.

Want your cannabis cooking to be a little more obvious? Ban Lao Reung also serves whole leaves, fried in tempura and served with dipping sauce. (I must try that.)

Cannabis-infused restaurants are popping up across Thailand, Bush reported. Old traditions and new approaches to drug policy come together on one plate.

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