Friday, December 19, 2008

toddy (coconut wine)

when i was young, i remembered seeing a toddy shop at jalan berseh, near sungei road and another one in the vicinity of newton circus. there must have been toddy shops in other parts of singapore. mr chew, in his blog about joo chiat post office, mentioned that the post office was at one time converted into a toddy shop. the ord bridge, near clarke quay, used to be known as toddy bridge as there were toddy shops in the nearby pulau saigon. (pulau saigon does not exist anymore.)

most of the customers were working-class indians. the sale of toddy was regulated by the authorities and the shop was open for business during certain hours only. the need to control the distribution of toddy was necessary because unscrupulous suppliers would use additives which were often toxic to preserve the toddy. regulation was to ensure that only fresh toddy was sold to the customers. i do not know when the sale of toddy in singapore was stopped but i do know you can still get toddy from across the causeway.

in the 70s, when i went pond fishing at yio chu kang, i can vaguely recall seeing some indian "tappers" climbing up the coconut palms to collect the sap from a pot that was left on each of the coconut trees. there were quite a number of coconut palms around the fish ponds.

toddy is made from the sap collected from the cut flower shoot of the coconut tree by a tapper who fastens a container to the flower shoots to collect the sap. up to 27 litres of sap a day can be collected from one coconut tree. the sap is collected in a pot made of clay, tied around the waste of the tapper.

the sap that is initially collected is very sweet and non-alcoholic; the sap has to be left to ferment for a few hours to become toddy. the coconut sap has a short shelf life as fermentation starts within a few of hours of collection. if left too long, it proceeds to quickly becomes vinegar – unless it is distilled to form a stronger alcoholic drink.

"the young inflorescence is tightly bound with twigs and beaten with a weighted wooden mallet, morning and evening, for a number of days. when the inflorescence begins to ooze its sap, the tip is cut and the sap allowed to trickle into an earthenware pot. owing to the yeasts and other organisms already present in the used pots, alcoholic and other fermentations begin immediately."

"each morning and evening, a "tapper" climbs the tree to collect the toddy, and at each visit he shaves off a fine tranverse section of the inflorescence so as to leave a new oozing surface. the fermented toddy, which is milky in appearance, is brought to the government toddy-shops for sale within a few hours of collection."


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


nah said...

I have fond memories of Yio Chu Kang fishing pond. There were three ponds, one big pond and two smaller ones. The tilapia fish in the big pond measured a foot long and can drag your fishing rod into the pond, making you think that a big ‘grassy’ has committed suicide. This is the only place where this fish ‘pissed’ at you after you have landed it. The ‘ang mohs’ loved to fish at the smaller ponds for the smaller tilapias and at the end of the day, they would throw all their catch back into the ponds. The owner always welcomed them with open arms.

yg said...

hi quinlan, thks for the encouragement. glad you enjoy reading my blog.

yg said...

mr nah, i must have gone to yio chu kang pond with you and bozzo or mc wong.