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These Noodles Have Got Some Kick

boat noodles photo credit Ashley Carucci

As cannabis regulations have loosened across the United States, THC-spiked foods have become more widely available. But the cannabis-infused noodles popping up at Los Angeles’ Ayara Thai on April 19th aren’t based on a modern fad. The kancha boat noodles are inspired by the Thai tradition of cooking with cannabis, as well as Chef Vanda Asapahu’s flair for combining old family recipes with modern Thai and Thai-American influences.

Ayara Thai is a family affair: Andy and Anna Asapahu founded the restaurant in 2004, and their daughter Vanda is the current head chef.  She co-owns the restaurant with her sister Cathy, who serves as Ayara Thai’s pastry chef.

Chef Vanda Asapahu describes Ayara Thai’s cuisine as simple, home-cooked Thai food inspired by her family members’ backgrounds. “My dad is Thai-Chinese from Bangkok in Central Thailand, and my mom is from Northern Thailand,” she says. “We have things that are more traditional — Central Thai, Thai-Chinese food, Northern Thai, but also Thai-American dishes like lobster pad thai and other specials that reflect more who I am and who my sister is.”

Chef Vanda Asapahu.

“For us, it’s always flavor first,” she continues. “We often make dishes at home and sit around the kitchen table tasting them.” That’s how the kancha boat noodles originated.

“My dad and I were talking about it and we searched the internet for recipes. What we found didn’t really make sense from the understanding we have now of cannabis cooking, so we started working on it and testing it out. I think we’re on version 24!”

Asapahu notes that there isn’t much written history regarding kancha boat noodles, but according to oral tradition they were served on the boats that traveled Bangkok’s extensive canal system. Cannabis was used to tenderize the meat and add flavor. “Cannabis adds a grassy, rooted, earthy taste to the noodles,” she says. “Boat noodles have about 35 ingredients in the broth. The [beef] broth is layered with beef blood, golangal, lemongrass; it has pandan and spices like Chinese five spice.”

Ayara Thai has been hosting kancha boat noodle pop-ups since 2020, with the next event scheduled for Friday, April 19, 2024. The kancha boat noodles contain two to four milligrams of THC per portion, equivalent to micro-dosing a THC edible. “Guests who maybe don’t use cannabis much report a little bit of a high,” says Asapahu. “It has a delayed effect and it depends on your metabolism. Everyone [who tries them] reports they get the best sleep they’ve ever had.”

For those who can’t make the pop-up, Asapahu’s boat noodle recipe is available online. There are also plenty of delicious dishes on the regular menu that are available year round. Asapahu notes that the khao soi noodles, muay thai wings, pad thai, and pad see ew are especially popular. Her personal favorite is the laab duck, a minced duck salad with an herbaceous dressing.

If you’d like to try Ayara Thai’s kancha boat noodles, book a reservation for April 19, 2024 via the Ayara Thai website.  The noodles will be available starting at 5:00 p.m. until they sell out, likely around 8:00 p.m. The restaurant closes at 10:00 p.m.  “We’re giving people a head start on 4/20!”says Asapahu.


Stacy Brooks

Stacy Brooks is a Minneapolis-based freelance journalist focusing on food and travel. Her writing has been published in Hemispheres, Midwest Living and Wine Enthusiast, and she blogs at Tangled Up In Food.



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