4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Miss Khantoke Traditional Dinner When Visiting Chiang Mai
You will never really appreciate a place unless you understand its culture. Culture is usually manifested in the behaviors of the locales, the food they eat, and many more.
Chiang Mai is famous throughout the kingdom of Thailand for its incredible cuisine and rich Lanna culture. And you can experience the best of both these worlds in one evening at a Khantoke Traditional Dinner.
Here are the 4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Miss Khantoke Traditional Dinner When Visiting Chiang Mai:
- Experience a Lanna Thai Tradition
The name Khantoke refers to the low round teak wood table used to hold the food, and its origins can be traced back to 1953 when Ajarn Kraisee Nimmanahaeminda held a dinner party for some important guests. She brought in traditionally dressed singers and dancers to add some flair to the evening, which was so well-received that she continues doing it each time there is an important event. Even among average Lanna people, a Khantoke meal is always done at important occasions such as weddings, housewarmings, celebrations, novice ordinations, and so forth.
- Festive Settings and Ambiance
One thing which really makes the Khantoke Traditional Dinner standout is the setting and ambiance of the place. In Khum Khantoke where I had the opportunity to have this traditional dinner, their spacious hall was built of teak with intricate curving designs that is very Thai. The place is well decorated which speaks, of course, about Thai Culture. Colorful cushions are neatly arranged in the carpet where diners will eat. There’s no roof on the main hall, which means you will be eating al fresco and under the moonlight and with sounds created by the traditional Thai musical instruments. All personnel of the place are dressed in their Traditional costumes , not forgetting of course their signature smiles and gentle greetings. If you love “selfies”, all over the place are picture perfect corners and the staff in costumes would be felicitous to have their photos taken with you. Foot wears are also not allowed in the main hall.
- Experience at Least 5 Traditional Thai Different Dishes Served in Old Fashion
At Khantoke Traditional Dinner, guests will be treated to northern-style dishes in traditional Thai fashion by sitting on the floor and eating off large low round tables known as a toke. While you sample the many dishes offered, skilled dancers will perform traditional Lanna dances such as fon lep (finger dancing), ram dab (sword dancing), and fon thean (candle dancing). Truly skilled cultural performers like those used by Chiang Mai’s leading Khantoke venues are a dying breed, so whether you come for the food or the dancing, don’t hand up this singular experience.
Five different Lanna dishes, accompanied by a large basket of sticky rice, are traditionally attended to in a Khantoke dinner. They include gaeng hung-lay (Burmese pork curry), gai tod(fried chicken), paad pugg (fried cabbage), nam prik ong(tomato, chili and minced pork dip) and keb moo (fried pork rinds). Chopped cucumber and other fresh garnishes round off the picture. You should use your fingers to pull clumps of sticky rice from the basket and scoop out a bit of each dish. However, forks and spoons are always available if this proves too challenging.
In Thailand, many people still eat with their hands and this has nothing to do with social strata. Using the fingers of the right hand, a small portion of sticky rice that is served in little woven bamboo baskets is kneaded into a bite-sized ball (it takes a little practice!) and the ball is dipped into the desired main dish (a portion can be melded onto the rice ball) before being popped into the mouth. The fingers shouldn’t really enter one’s mouth (the food shouldn’t be crammed) as the movements are politely delicate. A rinse of the fingers and the process is repeated again and again. Thais from the humblest to the highest continue to dine in this traditional manner when the cultural or home occasion arises, and they are adept at making it look easy and gracious.
- Enjoy A spectacular Thai Music and Dance Entertainment
Aside from meals, the traditional dance is one of the main highlights of the event. Halfway into your meal, the traditional dancing will commence with their Khantoke Parade coming from the principal entryway of the foyer. The classical Thai orchestra using time-proven musical instruments set the scene as little groups of dancers dressed in the beautiful costumes move across the hallway. The dances performed at a Khantoke dinner are rooted in the history, stories and culture of this region of Thailand and are very old.
The dances range from sublime visual creations like the candle dance, where women hold tiny candle bowls in their palms as they bend and swirl about the floor, to more virulent acts such as the sword dance, performed by a single, dexterous and brave new man. Dances such as the magic fowls dance and silk reeling dance represent the folklore and everyday animation of traditional Lanna culture.
Later a few introductory rounds so that you, the guests, can see how it is practiced, the dancers will ask for you to join in on a cheerful, friendly finale to the evening’s plan.