Toddy Culture

20 April 2016

It may be the era of handcrafted cocktails and speakeasy bars, but one has to pay homage to local brews that have withstood trends. We find out more about toddy – its origins and what its future holds.

No real Malaysian drinker hasn’t tried at least one of the country’s own local brews – toddy, tuak or langkau, among others. Toddy, also known as palm beer, is a common drink in most tropical countries around the world. It can be found from Mexico to the Pacific Islands. Basically, wherever you find coconuts!

It’s also known as mimbo (Cameroon), bahar/tuba (Sabah and the Philippines), todi (West Malaysia) and emu amongst Nigerian tribes. Not to be confused with samsu – cheap stuff that might make you blind.

Toddy is a sweetish, slightly fizzy drink, 100% natural. It’s very light, possibly lighter than beer in terms of alcohol content, so drinking several mugs is not an issue. Best part is, it’s so cheap, it’s ridiculous. And toddy is also a source of B-complex vitamins. It’s said to flush your system clean (whatever that means).

Toddy has nothing to do with coconut water, it’s palm sap. Most palms – whether date palms, betel palms, oil palms or coconut palms – are usable. In Malaysia, we use coconut palms. The flower stems of the palm tree is nipped – sap flows out into a jar in the tree, where it ferments naturally after a while due to wild yeast, plus some yeast that are still hanging out in the used jar.

You can distil toddy and produce more explosive liquor like arrack. If you’ve ever had air nira, it’s the same stuff. Except nira is harvested and drunk before fermentation can begin. It's a pre-toddy.

Toddy is served in buckets in certain places. It tastes pretty refreshing, especially when enjoyed chilled. Since it’s quite light, drinkers tend to add more intoxicants into the drink, mainly Guinness FES, which weighs in at 6.4% ABV.

Bites play an important role in toddy sessions, and a common one is dry curry monitor lizard. It’s cooked in lots of spices, which overpowers the taste which is bit like chicken. It’s also common to have wild boar, turkey, mutton and quail.

There are various spots where you can enjoy toddy, mainly to the west of the Klang Valley – Klang, Banting and Morib. Many seafood joints in Klang in areas like Teluk Gong are stocked with toddy even for dinnertime, and there are a couple in Banting close to the river. Toddy shacks are cool, but not really a spot to impress a date. Word is that some have been bottling strong toddy and exporting it as coconut wine, so who knows, the humble toddy might be movin’ up in the world.

By The Thirsty Blogger

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