If you want to experience traditional Thai dining, a Lanna Khantoke dinner is a must-try. Many people believe that this north Thailand dinner with music and dance was invented for tourists, but it actually dates back many centuries. Locals still celebrate festivals and holidays in their homes with a Khantoke dinner today.
Eating with your fingers is a common practice in Thailand, and it has nothing to do with social class. It depends on the place, occasion, and meal being served. A Thai hostess will follow a set etiquette when offering a meal to be eaten with fingers, and guests will be polite and delicate as they partake of the meal. Traditional Thai meals are rarely served on one plate, unlike the Western concept. Thais usually settle for a fork and spoon, or sometimes their fingers, as their utensils.
The Khantoke dinner is a Lanna Thai tradition, not just something invented for tourists’ amusement. Thai Lanna was a prosperous Kingdom that existed in present-day northern Thailand. The Khantoke dinner is offered to guests at various ceremonies or parties, such as weddings, housewarmings, celebrations, novice ordinations, life extensions, or funerals, and at temple celebrations for buildings in a temple’s compound.
The essential implements required for eating are trays, spatulas, big spoons, and food containers. Wood, bamboo, rattan, and coconut shell are commonly used as raw materials for making food tray and container products. Khantoke is the circular wooden tray set on a pedestal that serves as a table. Originally made with a big solid piece of teakwood, lathing and carving techniques are employed, and natural polymers are applied for coating. Bamboo and rattan can also be used instead of teakwood.
The wonderful thing about a traditional Lanna Khantoke dinner is the combination of classical Thai dance and music with excellent food. The Khantoke is the perfect setting for such a spectacle. When you arrive for your Khantoke dinner, you will have to remove your shoes before entering into the spacious hall built of teak where decoration is from original materials and motifs only. Your hostess in traditional attire will guide you smilingly to your place, comfortably seated on cushions on the carpeted floor or at nearby tables if you prefer.
The food is served in small portions, and sticky rice is served in little woven bamboo baskets. Using the fingers of the right hand, the rice is kneaded into a bite-sized ball and then dipped into the desired main dish before being eaten. Thai Classical Dance is performed by troupes of dancers in gorgeous costumes, or occasionally a solo dancer, as they perform the graceful movements of Thai classical dance for your pleasure. These are absolutely authentic Northern Thailand dances, quite distinct from those performed in Bangkok and Ayutthaya.
In Chiang Mai, there are two popular places to experience Khantoke dinner. The first one is Khum Khantoke, known as the reception room of Chiang Mai province, which offers a traditional Lanna atmosphere. The second one is the Old Chiang Mai Culture Center, where you can enjoy a serene three-hour experience of the exotic Khantoke dinner, stage performances, and hill tribes shows known as Lanna Thai.
Overall, a Lanna Khantoke dinner is an excellent way to experience traditional Thai culture and cuisine. Visitors should not miss this opportunity to immerse themselves in the graceful movements of Thai classical dance and the delectable flavors of traditional Thai dishes.