Here Toddy, Gone Tomorrow

The “holy grail” – the flower, cut and ready to secrete.

Toddy is a beverage created from the sap of various species of palm trees such as the palmyra, date palms, and coconut palms. The toddy tapper’s task is to climb the palm tree and obtain the sap from the palm flower.

Toddy tapping involves the following steps:

1. Beat the flower: The tapper climbs up the tree and “conditions” the flower by “beating” it. He does this three times, meaning he has to climb up and down each day for three successive days.

2. Cut the flower: After the third day, the flower is cut to allow the sap to secrete and drain.

3. Tie a container: The tapper ties a container to the flower stump.

4. Collect the sap: The tapper leaves the container overnight and collects the contents – the secretion – the next morning. Once allowed to ferment, it becomes alcoholic and aromatic palm wine is  the result. The longer it is set aside to ferment, the more alcoholic it becomes.

During colonial times in Singapore, the Brits – diabolical to the bone, first opium, then toddy –  operated toddy stalls often frequented by long lines of poorly-paid coolies each carrying their own mugs. As a child, many a times, I saw intoxicated coolies lying drunk on the roads, in their own vomit.

These toddy joints are long gone, and given the declining number of tappers – and toddy aficionados – these days, it’s increasingly hard to find toddy anywhere and soon, toddy may disappear altogether too.

Last month, when I visited Malaysia, Dr Julian Lim took me to an eatery in Telok Gong, Klang and – guess what? – we found toddy!  We downed two bottles of the divine stuff! It was like imbibing nectar of the gods!

What a rare treat!

Toddy can be enjoyed on its own but a favorite way is to mix it with Guinness stout.

This entry was posted in Eat Drink Men Women. Bookmark the permalink.