Bangkok-based Gaggan was the No. 1 restaurant in Asia for four years, and in the middle of this historic run, namesake chef Gaggan Anand announced that he would close the restaurant in 2020 to focus on new projects, including a historic collaboration with Tsuyoshi Fukuyama (La Maison de la Nature Goh) in Tokyo. Due to major conflicts with his partners, the chef and his team pulled the trigger early and shuttered the two-Michelin-star restaurant on Aug. 24, but he’s doing a three-day curry pop-up this week (Sept. 13 to 15) and will reportedly open a new Bangkok-based restaurant (apparently with most/all of the Gaggan team) as early as next month. In tribute to a fallen restaurant whose colorful emoji menu looked like a sheet of acid, PRØHBTD recalls talking with Gaggan about two of his favorite pastimes: smoking cannabis and eating magic mushrooms.
You previously served a dish called Bong Connection, and you had a cannabis-free version of bhang thandai.
Bong Connection is an old Bengali movie. It means that you’re going back to your roots—not bong as in weed. I wish I could’ve done that in Thailand. If I was in Los Angeles, I’d have a whole 25-course weed-oriented menu. You see, the problem is that we live in a prohibited world where we try to control everything. The old Chinese stocks and soups, and in India, a lot of weed and hemp, have been used and this created better food. It’s what we call energy and umami. Really, I would love to cook with weed. In India, there are many recipes that are so ancient. It goes back to giving food to the gods, and they all have weed in it. That’s how you get your high, and that’s how you create your Indian life body.
Have you ever tried to cook with cannabis before?
Yeah, in India where you’re legally allowed to have bhang, which is a form of weed that can give you like a bad high for eight or nine hours. A super high. In India, there’s nothing illegal about it. Forget about culture, it’s in our religion. And that’s what it is. The problem is food was never religion—we have made food religious.
India also had a major historical role in cannabis because it brought indica to the world.
Yes, absolutely. It’s growing wild. You can come and go and buy, and it’s growing wild. It’s all there. You can just crush it and use it.
If it became legal everywhere, would you ever do a restaurant or meal that included cannabis?
If I ever get a chance to cook in LA, I will have to cook with a weed menu. I’ll make sure that it furthers things. A weed tempura would taste fuckin’ awesome. A weed tempura would just fuckin’ kill it. Or using weed in a rich curry with coconut milk would taste amazing. Or a weed stir-fry. I used to have stir-fry chicken with weed in it. Weed could just make food taste good. Why does weed have to be a narcotic?
If you came to Los Angeles, you would do a cannabis dinner?
I would love to do it.
You also had a dish in the past called Magic Mushroom. Was that a reference to psychedelics?
Yes. I love psychedelics. I have very old memories of magic mushrooms. There’s a two-way meaning to it: it’s psychedelic, and it refers to mushrooms being magical. I love mushrooms, and I love to go to Holland to do mushrooms. I wish I could do them in Bangkok, but I can’t. Look at most of the things that grow: truffles, porcini, amazing mushrooms like shiitake. And of course, when you get high on mushrooms, so many good images come to your mind.
Did you ever think of a dish during or after a mushroom trip?
Oh, the Magic Mushroom came when I was in Holland. It’s got truffles, mushrooms, morels, and it came during a vision in Holland.
Has anyone ever told you the emoji menu looks like blotter paper? Was that the intention?
No, no, no. People love the emoji menu, and they cannot smoke that. The people in my restaurants come from all over the world so my idea was that the emojis would transfer the language of the world into one emotion for every dish.
David Jenison (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Editor-in-Chief at PRØHBTD. Main image byBenya Hegenbarth. Inline image courtesy ofGaggan restaurant andAsia’s 50 Best Restaurants, sponsored by S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna.