How Not Knowing Penang Toddy Shop Makes You a Rookie
“Do women come to the Toddy Shop,” I asked Ravi Arumugam the “barman” of the local watering hole in Pulau Tikus, Penang. I looked across the street where Markus Modern Italian Cuisine serves modern Italian cuisine & wines from various wine regions in Italy. What a contrast! This is the appeal and charm of Penang.
“Why not? You are here, so come drink.”
Kumar offered me a green plastic mug filled to the brim with cloudy toddy.
I gamely took a sip; it has a strong smell, sweetish, slightly fizzy and light. I swear I could feel its heat as the toddy travels to the pit of my stomach.
A Rookie at a Penang Toddy Shop
The toddy inn is definitely different from your regular bar.
Everything goes here and the guys are cool about it.
Riding in on your motorcycle? No problem. Parking indoors? That’s cool too.
If you’re a fan of plastic, they’re cool with plastic mugs here.
Can I have a Toddy Cocktail?
Why not, have a toddy mixed with a cola drink?
What is Palm Toddy?
They serve palm wine or toddy a sweet, non-alcoholic beverage derived from fresh coconut sap usually drunk soon after fermentation.
Toddy is white and sweet with a characteristic flavor and contains between 4 and 6% alcohol.
It has a short shelf life of about 24 hours. If we refrigerate it, the toddy will keep, however it becomes more sour and acidic by the end of the day,
The origins of the “Caged Bar”
The “caged” bar.
Interestingly, the setup is the same for most toddy inns.
The patrons chillaxing and the barman is behind the metal cage which is incidentally unlocked!
Since young, I’ve had a strange fascination for the toddy bar and wanted to know how the operations “behind the counter”.
What’s behind the Toddy Shop’s Caged Bar?
Ravi gamely invited me in for a view out.
It has a tiled countertop, lots of colorful plastic mugs stacked high.
Clean white towels covering the counter.
And hanging on the cage a “kuda” or “men riding horses” calendar.
It is the must-have in Malaysia. Even office workers have a mini version on their desk instead of a desktop calendar.
Lots of recycled mineral water bottle for takeaways. “Tapau is no problem,” said Ravi.
Is Palm Toddy good for health?
“It’s a health drink, 100% natural good like coconut water with a kick. Plenty of vitamins and can clean out your system.”
Moderate consumption of fresh palm toddy is good as it contains the right amount of antioxidants, Vitamin B1, B2, and Vitamin C which helps in maintaining good eye health.
The happy guys laughed and cheered each other along.
How to store Toddy?
Ravi took me behind the metal “cage” counter to see where the toddy is kept. It was in a large glazed earthen pot with a wooden cover.
“Ah, I don’t make it, other people make it. I only have a license to sell,” Ravi says as he scooped up a mug full.
The bar set is basic. Long tables, long wooden benches, and the bartender firmly secured behind the cage.
“It’s not fermented coconut water but the flower sap of a palm tree. It’s collected in jars and the old yeast in the used jars ferments it.
When is the best time to get the freshest Toddy?
A fresh batch is always best. So come early, say 2 pm.”
The best job in the world is a Toddy Bartender
“I have the best job where all my customers are happy with me! I’m a toddy seller for the past 14 years and my customers have become more than friends.
They are like brothers to me. We sit around after a hard day’s work.”
Who drinks Toddy in Penang?
“Last time, people say only Indian laborers drink toddy.
Now, this is not true.
My best customers are Chinese, actually. I have Indian and Malay customers. All Muhibbah. Japanese ladies come to buy back home.
Tourists love to try Toddy
“Tourist love to peek in and come to try to have a drink here.”
What is the most popular Toddy Mix?
Chinese customers will buy this to mix with beer.
More popular is mix toddy with Guinness Foreign Extra Stout for a real kick
How much do you pay for a Toddy?
- Per mug RM2.50
- A 1.5-liter bottle is RM6.50
So the next time you want to try something different for a natural high, head on down to the two Toddy Shop in George Town area, Kedai Tuak Lorong Pasar and
Kedai Tuak Jalan Cantonment
Jalan Cantonment, Pulau Tikus, 10350 George Town, Penang
Phone: 016-471 6393
See the full list of Toddy Shop in Penang and Butterworth here.