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Khun Tok dinner: The transformation of a Lanna eating style into a tourist attraction in Chiang Mai

Vol. 11, Supp. 1 (2015), 129–144


This paper examines the transformation of the Khun Tok and Lanna cuisine in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. Khun Tok is a traditional round, low table used for meals of the Lanna people (those who lived in the Northern part of Thailand or Lanna Kingdom in the past). In 1953, the Khun Tok Dinner was then established in the form of a modern party that used the name of the traditional Lanna utensil, Khun Tok, as the title of the party. It was the first time that the Lanna traditional cuisine and Khun Tok appeared in a modern style dinner for upper class people in the city of Chiang Mai. Later, the pattern of the Khun Tok Dinner was used and replicated to host visitors in Chiang Mai by local Buddhist groups. After the establishment of the private tourist business and the Old Chiang Mai Cultural Center, the Khun Tok Dinner was used regularly as a tourist attraction. Later, dancing in traditional costumes was introduced to accompany the meal. With this tourist construction of a traditional cuisine only easily cooked Lanna dishes were made available and a limited menu was served, despite there being a variety of traditional Lanna dishes. Subsequently, and in response to tourism demand, more Khun Tok Dinner restaurants were established in Chiang Mai. The concepts of authenticity and commoditisation of Lanna culture, as well as the promotion of the cultural industry are debated as significant factors relating to the transformation of the traditional Khun Tok and Lanna cuisine in response to the developing tourism industry.

Author’s bio

Ploysri Porananond is Adjunct Associate Professor of Tourism Studies at Chiang Mai University, Thailand. She was recently Head of the Centre for Tourism Studies and Academic Services (CTSAS), Chiang Mai University. Her interest focuses on cultural tourism studies, as well as tourism and development in Thailand and ASEAN countries. Her publications include “Modernity and Evolution of a Festive Tourism Tradition: The Songkran Festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand” (2008), “Tourism and the Transformation of Ritual Practice with Sand Pagoda in Chiang Mai, Thailand” (2015), Rethinking Asian Tourism: Culture, Encounters and Local Response (with Victor T. King) (2014), and “Tourism and Political Agendas in the Dum Hua Procession in the Songkran Festival” (2014).


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