Cooking With Cannabis: The Secret of Thai Cuisine - HØJ

Cooking With Cannabis: The Secret of Traditional Thai Cuisine

Estimated 5-minute read

Without a shadow of a doubt, cannabis is very popular in the kitchen, for the reasons you may suspect already: edibles are awesome. Not everyone is fond of all the smoke and hassle of rolling joints (your mileage may vary on that, personally I think is relaxing), but eating something yummy and feeling the effects of a good dose of THC is a plan with no downsides. Also, cooking by itself is already a pretty awesome (and all around useful) hobby, so mixing the best of both worlds is surprisingly a popular way to enjoy cannabis, almost to the point that the idea of using cannabis to cook, but not to get high, sounds a little odd.

After all, isn’t the pleasant high the most valued aspect of cannabis? The whole market revolves around that, with strains looking to make the THC content more potent, the same way that high sweetness is the main selling point of candy. However, in lots of traditional cuisines, cannabis means more than a good afternoon of chilling with friends, and Thai cuisine knows it best.

As you might know, the decriminalization of weed is marching slowly but surely, and more and more countries are seeing the benefit of freeing this wonderful plant, be it for medicinal or recreational purposes. And Thailand is one of the more recent nations where the bans on cannabis have started to relax, starting from this past June 2022. What might be surprising, though, is learning that the prohibition of cannabis in this country is fairly recent, from the 1970s on, and plenty of people in the older generations remember all kinds of soups, salads and stews where cannabis had a fairly mundane place.

So toda, here at HØJ, we want to step back a little from our usual type of cooking tips, and look at weed not only as the purveyor of a good time, but also as a storied plant that plenty of the world has been enjoying in many different ways for centuries. And who knows, maybe you can finally find a new use for your recent harvest of homegrown weed, and take advantage of the versatility of this plant, not only as a getaway for a good time.

Care for a plate of cobra fried with basil and cannabis?

Cannabis has a very strong flavor, probably closer to pine needles than with any traditional spice you may have used before, and one of the tricks of cooking with it in modern edible culture is to balance it with other flavors, trying to reduce its flavor to not overshadow everything else. However, this is due to the fact that, as we mentioned, most modern weed is bred to bring the THC content up as humanly possible. And naturally, traditional cuisine like Thai food doesn’t do that.

Cannabis leaves and roots contain an amino acid called glutamic acid. This amino acid lends food a hit of umami that enhances the other flavors in the dish”, mentions the article A New Old Ingredient In Thailand from the online magazine Whetstone about the re-popularization of this ingredient after the decriminalization arrived and lots of old traditions came back. “People used cannabis in foods such as noodle soups. It’s fragrant, and it’s kind of like MSG—it improves taste.

However, this is a specific taste that you can only get with the local strains of cannabis (Foi Thong Phu Pha Yon Issara, Phu Phan Squirrel-Tailed, Sakon Nakhon Tiger-Tailed, Tanaosri White Stem and Tanaosri Red Stem) that have been available in the country for years; even though more and more strains are arriving at Thailand from the Netherlands, Africa, and the US, they are inadequate to cook traditional dishes. You can only find a valuable MSG-like weed in traditional Thai kitchens, from popular stir-frys and currys, to more exotic dishes like cobra roasts and eel soups, to easy teas and infusions that you can find pretty much everywhere in modern Thailand.

And similarly to the use of wine and other alcoholic drinks in recipes (rum cake is awesome for many reasons, yo), although these dishes still contain trace amounts of THC, they mostly use the leaves of the plant to cook, leaving plenty of buds to go around if you are inclined to still smoke a joint while enjoying green curry.

A diversity in weed culture around the world

As we mentioned, cannabis has been an integral part of Thai culture for centuries, being very close to Indian regions from where this plant comes. And of course, this plant is still used for pleasure (the famous Thai sticks come to mind), but its impact on food and medicine practices cannot be overstated. In fact, for a long time, Thailand was a leader in medical cannabis research, and a big factor in why it got completely decriminalized recently, which has allowed many more traditional uses to flourish again.

This also means that there’s plenty of ways you can make the most out of your weed, using the leaves to maximize the umami flavor of your soups and curry dishes, giving them a different touch that, nonetheless, still fits within an experienced stoner’s kitchen skills. Why not use grinded leaves as a garnish in a fish soup? Or adding them to vegetable stock ready to be used in stews, or instead of water in your Instant Pot? Or roasting them on a pan, grinding them to dust and liberally use in a stir fry? The point of this type of cannabis consumption is to enhance the flavor of everything else, so next time you find a recipe that calls for MSG, try and substitute it for dried cannabis, and enjoy a wholly different type of cooking today. In the words of the magazine Atlas Obscura:

Glutamic acid is an essential element in monosodium glutamate, commonly known as MSG. The amino acid enhances savory taste-active compounds, providing foods with a boost of umami, the pleasantly savory, “round” taste sometimes referred to as the fifth flavor. Research has revealed that the marijuana plant, in particular its leaves, contain a higher concentration of glutamic acid than Parmesan cheese, a food generally considered to have high levels of umami”. 


So next time you are craving something filling, with deep umami, and you have a crop of weed just about to be ready, remember to save some of those leaves, chop them up with the best grinder you will own in your life, and elevate your gastronomic purposes. Thai food might not be the same to you after it.


Author: Shaggy

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