Happy Meals: cannabis-infused cuisine now being served
Prachin Buri’s hospital offers cannabis dishes and snacks to enthusiastic patrons
No culinary trend could possibly beat the gastronomical delights of a cannabis menu! Just a read of the menu that features such names as “jolly cookies”, “giggling bread”, “beaming tempura” and “happy pizza” puts food patrons immediately at ease.
The names aren’t typical for Thai food but this is a menu that will keep expanding. The Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital in Prachin Buri has created a pilot restaurant project aiming to bring back the health benefits of cannabis to the Thai kitchen following Thailand’s de-listing of cannabis as a narcotic.
Called “Ma Chim Kan”, which roughly translates as “Let’s taste (cannabis)”, the restaurant is still in its infancy but has already caused a stir among enthusiasts. People travel from near and far to the hospital just to taste the “happy meals” and many come for takeaways.
“The taboo has been broken, now we are welcoming cannabis back to Thai kitchens,” says Dr Supaporn Pitiporn, the hospital’s assistant director.
Thai people have used cannabis in their cooking since ancient times. “The cannabis leaf is known to improve the appetite and make people relaxed,” Dr Supaporn adds.
The “Ma Chim Kan” project was conceived quite by accident. Not long ago, hospital staff were communicating via the LINE chat application about the cannabis-infused menu the hospital was planning for the upcoming 360-degree Hemp and Cannabis Fair in Buriram province. “Photos (of dishes) leaked to the outside world and the information spread, quickly becoming the talk of the town.”
A pioneer in Thailand in the study of the medical and health benefits of marijuana, the Chao Phraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital decided to go with the flow and introduced dishes at the hospital’s day spa before adding another outlet at Baan Lao Rueng on Nahmurng Road, about five minutes by car from the hospital.
“We grabbed the chance to educate the public about cannabis consumption and other related facts,” she says.
The Narcotics Act of B.E. 2522 that identified cannabis as an illegal substance in 1979 put Thailand behind many nations in terms of research into breeding varieties for health use. But in the kitchen, Thai people have maintained their local wisdom in using cannabis in various dishes.
“We used cannabis in cooking in all parts of Thailand and we found Southerners adding it to Khao Yam and the Karen people mixing the leaves with their chilli dip,” says the pharmacist, who was one of the key persons behind the legalisation of cannabis.
Cannabis can be used for savoury dishes as well as desserts and drinks. Each dish contains very little cannabis. For example, the kitchen uses half a leaf for happy kaprao (rice topped with stir-fried basil), two leaves for giggling bread and five leaves for joyfully dancing salad (a salad with fried marijuana). For its recommended drink, the hospital uses one freshly squeezed cannabis leaf with tea.
Prices are affordable. Happy kaprao costs 60 baht, joyfully dancing goes for 150 baht, happy pizza (toast) and giggling bread are priced at 90 baht, and it’s 40 baht for a piece of jolly cookie.
Beginners or those new to cannabis are recommended to try one leaf or less in a day. Normally, one dish should use half to two leaves of cannabis. People with liver or kidney conditions, heart and coronary artery disease, those using Warfarin or on medication for mental conditions, as well as pregnant or breast-feeding women and those under 25 years old should not eat a cannabis meal.
Neither the amount nor the preparation/cooking method will make consumers high. But such possible side-effects as dizziness, sleepiness and thirst vary from one person to another, and can happen after 30 minutes to 3 hours after meals. Some may not feel anything at all.
“Maybe it’s just me but I slept better after a big cannabis-infused meal,” says Panee Chevapark.
Piyanee Rungrattawatchai, however, felt dizzy shortly after meal. The hospital offered her a lime juice and she felt much better afterwards.
At this stage, the aim is to make people familiar with the cannabis as an added ingredient. Next up, Dr Supaporn is hoping to roll out more dishes and disseminate information about the health benefits of cannabis and how to use the once taboo plant.
In the very near future, the hospital will be an educator too as it has just signed an MoU with the Public Health Ministry and Office of Non-Formal and Informal Education to jointly provide a course on cannabis cooking.
As for the active substance that Thai people have long believed helps relieve some movement disorders, pain and stress, the hospital is to conduct further research to find out what becomes of substances that are in the food. It’s well established that a fresh cannabis leaf contains cannabidiolic acid (CBDA ) and Tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA) but how this changes after cooking has yet to be determined.
“Ma Chim Kan”
Abhaibhubejhr’s Day Spa
The Chao Phya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital, Prachin Buri
Open daily from 8am to 3pm
Booking recommended at 037-217127
PHOTO by Veena Thoopkrajae