They’ve been part of our takeaway orders for generations. We explore the history of Chinese/Australian takeaway classics, including the dim sim, lemon chicken and sweet & sour pork.
Move over Malibu, there’s a proper alcohol actually made from coconuts to test the taste buds of cocktail connoisseurs around Australia. And it’s called toddy.
Well, actually it’s called palm wine. And it’s not only called toddy. It is known by man various names in different regions and is predictably common in wherever palm trees are common, including parts of Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and South America.
Toddy is the Malaysian name, most probably adapted from the name given to it by those in India and Sri Lanka, the home of the coconut tree.
Toddy, as with most homebrews, is pretty simple to make. First, the sap is extracted and collected by a tapper, usually from the cut flower of a palm tree. A container is fastened to the flower stump to collect the sap. Another method involves the felling of the entire tree. Seems a little bit extreme for some booze but who is to judge.
Palm sap begins fermenting almost immediately after collection usually due to residual yeasts left in the collection vessels. Within two hours of fermentation beginning you’ve got an aromatic wine upwards of 4% alcohol content, mildly intoxicating and sweet. The wine may be allowed to ferment for up to a day, which will yield a stronger wine with a sour and acidic taste. Leave it too long however and you’ll be stuck with vinegar.
People sometimes distil the palm wine to produce a stronger liquor. Again it’s known by a bunch of fun names like arrack, village gin, charayam, and country whiskey. Throughout Nigeria, this is commonly called ogogoro.
Both palm wine and it’s stronger cousins are hard to find in Australia. I mean, it’s essentially coconut moonshine, and there’s not a lot of producers outside tropical areas of the world. But should you travel to one of these far-flung places, make sure you give some of the local brews a try. I mean, you only live once right?