“These five weed leaves … should contain around 0.7% THC. Just enough to get you in a good mood,” the restaurant manager said of the lightly battered and fried greenery spilling across the plate.
Good moods are on the menu just a couple hours outside Bangkok at what looks to be yet another charming and folksy riverside cafe, albeit one transformed by embrace of cannabis-based wellness. It’s there that Amara Akamanon preaches the benefits of a menu infused with ingredients that were criminal just last month.
Two weeks after the law was amended to declassify most of the marijuana plant as illicit, Ban Lao Rueng (Storytelling House) in Prachinburi city has updated its menu with cannabis dishes such as the plate of “tempura weed,” as well as cannabis juice-infused drinks and pot pizza.
The restaurant is housed in a 71-year-old residence two hours by car northeast of Bangkok in an area long known for its perennial fruit varieties that is now on the forefront of Thailand’s new green deal. Its next door to the Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital, a bastion of traditional Thai medicine which 16 months ago opened Asia’s first medical marijuana clinic.
Using leaves from marijuana plants grown at the hospital – only government-approved facilities can sell such products for now – and another near Khao Yai National Park, the restaurant now serves crowd-pleasing dishes with the kind of wink-wink names you’d expect at a backpacker hostel.
There’s Smiley Tempura (THB120), which comes with five deep-fried cannabis leaves and a spicy mango salad. And what better oregano substitute than strands of cannabis on pizza? Diners can order the Good-mood Pizza (THB60), a Thai-style version that comes in four slices sprinkled with bits of cannabis and garnished with a marijuana leaf.
Should diners have a designated driver or travel all the way by taxi? That is to say, will the food send you flying? The answer is no. Unless consumed in great quantities, the level of THC is enough for a gentle buzz but not going to leave you paranoid or impaired. (For best results, go with the tempura.)
Amara’s kitchen is literally juicing the benefits of cannabis as well. Among the herbal drinks are the Good-mood Soda (catching onto the theme?) which, at THB80, arrives on a tray bearing soda water and three liquid shots – passionfruit juice, sweet syrup and raw marijuana juice. Mix ‘em up and pour it down. Order another for maximum wellness.
The restaurant sits in a large home that once housed a dental practice which was donated to the hospital’s foundation four years ago for public benefit. That’s how it became Ban Lao Rueng, which first opened in 2017 as a restaurant-slash-museum promoting local herbs and medicinal plants.
Making all this possible was a formal announcement one month ago that most of the cannabis plant and its extracts would be delisted as Class-5 controlled substances. With that, the formerly forbidden bark, stem, fibers, branches, roots and leaves became legal, while flowers and buds remain off-limits.
The law also specifies that the goods can be used only for medical, academic or health product use, and only by people or organizations licensed by the health ministry. Chaophraya Hospital is among them, and that means Ban Lao Rueng is the only restaurant serving cannabis food that we know about.
The restaurant plans to launch more items in the near future. Amara – you’d better just call her “Auntie Pom” – said they’re coming up with homey comfort food such as pad krapao with, of course, more than just holy basil in the mix.
Production is still ramping up and the last harvest won’t last forever.
“Gotta come quick before the materials run out,” she said.
Ban Lao Rueng is located on Namuang Road in Prachinburi city. It’s open 10am to 7:30pm every day.