Cannabis has an understated reputation as a culinary ingredient, but people have long been cooking with cannabis around the world. Cannabis recipes are incredibly diverse, with tips and tricks for everything from beverages to dessert. Today, we explore three locations that have taken cooking to a higher level.

Thailand

Photo by: Gareth Harrison

Thailand is not exactly known for its lax rules surrounding drugs, but it has opened up in recent years. With medical marijuana recently legalized, it’s no surprise that chefs and restaurants across the country are gaining the courage to experiment with cannabis as an ingredient as well. One such establishment to jump on this wave is Ban Lao Rueng, or Storytelling House. The restaurant is set in a cozy, rural, traditional home setting.

One of the really interesting things about this restaurant is that it is owned and run by a hospital. The Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital specializes in traditional and alternative medicine. In the leadup to the legalization of medical marijuana in Thailand, the hospital became notable for its support of cannabis law reform. It now houses the country’s first official cannabis therapy clinic. Because the restaurant is run by a hospital, their prices are also incredibly affordable. As of January 2021, the average price of a dish was $3 and the most expensive dish cost $7.

All dishes at Ban Lao Rueng can be ordered with or without a cannabis twist, but there is one page on the menu reserved for exclusive canna-fied dishes. Items on this menu include cannabis pizzas and cannabis leaves dipped in batter and deep-fried, with a serving of mango salad on the side. Do take note that the folks at Ban Lao Rueng work exclusively with the leaves of the plant and not with the bud, in compliance with national law. This way, their dishes do not tend to have more than 1% of THC.

All of this cooking with cannabis around the world and in Thailand is not new either. Written evidence of cannabis being used as a cooking ingredient in Thailand can be found in Mae Khrua Hua Pa, a cookbook from 1908 that is considered by many to be Thailand’s oldest cookbook. With that said, the history of cannabis as an ingredient in Thailand probably dates back hundreds of years before that.

Jamaica

Photo by: Andrew Itaga

No article about cooking with cannabis around the world is complete without talking about Jamaica. There are a host of renowned restaurants and cafes throughout this island serving up innovation on a cannabis-garnished plate. Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella Marley, even has her own cookbook featuring 75 recipes that use cannabis.

It’s not uncommon in Jamaica to find world-class restaurants offering multiple course meals cooked with cannabis. Unlike their Thai counterparts, chefs in Jamaica are able to carry out the staple cooking process that cannabis requires in order to unleash its potency when used in food. I’m talking about decarboxylation. There’s also more of a cannabis-centric approach here, where chefs will actually analyze each strain’s terpenes and match the flavour of the other ingredients to the terpenes. Restaurants in Thailand, on the other hand, are taking a more moderate approach in order to slowly introduce the concept to locals.

Tourists and locals alike can also go on cannabis cooking courses or retreats to get the full experience of cooking with cannabis in Jamaica. If you’re more of a hands-off type, you may want to pay a visit to one of the island’s most famous cannabis restaurants, Kaya Herb House. Both a dispensary and a food establishment, Kaya has made a reputation for itself as the premier venue in Jamaica for those seeking Caribbean flavours with a cannabis twist. Known for their pizza, the only other thing you really need to know about this place is that their Drax Hall location’s address is 1 Weed Street.

Canada

Photo by: Jason Ng

Canada is often slept on as a global food destination. The truth is, its diverse cities provide amazing choices and its Indigenous cultures are experiencing a food revival. Now, Canadian chefs are looking to make their mark on the cannabis cooking scene too.

From vegan diners in Toronto to supper clubs hosted by former Master Chef Canada contestants, there is no shortage of innovative cannabis cooking in the Great White North. With full legalization, entrepreneurs and chefs in Canada are free to experiment with more varied ideas. There are businesses that offer cannabis cooking courses, but some businesses are looking to push the envelope further. For instance, Montreal-based food start-up Canolio Gourmet will allow users to hire chefs to come to their homes and cook sophisticated canna-fied meals.

Around the world, chefs interested in cannabis cooking are flocking to Canada to learn in an open and safe environment. Advocates for the development of the cannabis cooking scene here say that Canada is set to cash in on culinary tourism if it plays its cannabis cards right.

How to Cook with Cannabis

You may wonder in the case of garnishing with cannabis leaves: what is the point if the food ends up containing so little THC? Well, some cooks simply use cannabis to enhance flavours. Ever wondered why food tastes so good when you’re high? Why the munchies are a thing?

Scientists discovered that the leaves of the cannabis plant contain higher amounts of glutamic acid than Parmesan cheese. What is glutamic acid? It’s what the G in MSG stands for (glutamate), and MSG is what you put in your food to make it taste better. Why the comparison why Parmesan cheese? That’s because Parmesan cheese is considered to be one of the prime examples of umami and a great way to whet your appetite, which is why people use it as a garnish on almost everything. Similarly, some of these restaurants use chopped-up cannabis leaves as a garnish.

You can also try your hand at some cannabis dishes at home. Check out our recipes to get started!

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