Palm wine Travel

Make way for toddy

Social media is creating a new clientèle for thati kallu and savvy tappers are offering fresh meals for that complete native experience

On the way to Nagarjunasagar, about 100 kilometres from Hyderabad, as motorists drive past mango and guava vendors, the sight of shacks on one side of the road grab one’s attention. Made of dried palm fronds and held up by bamboo poles, these shacks are a sight to behold. If curiosity compels you to slow down, you find yourself lured by locals who coax you to stop by and try their ‘thati kallu’ (palm toddy), which is obtained from the sap of the palm tree. These toddy shacks of Telangana have local toddy tappers selling fresh toddy straight off the palm trees.

Make way for toddy

Drinking fresh toddy is not just a tradition in Telangana, but is also considered to be very healthy when consumed in limited quantities. While there’s no medical data to corroborate these claims, here’s the surprise element: “Fresh toddy is sweet and won’t leave you intoxicated. You get intoxicated only after drinking fermented toddy,” says Sharad Arora, bartender and mixologist. . Palm toddy ferments within a few hours and tastes slightly bitter.

Make way for toddy

Toddy tappers have, of late, become pretty market savvy. They know how indigenous food habits are grabbing attention. They are now acutely aware of bike riders, food influencers and TV shows that discuss indigenous ingredients, food and cuisine. As a result, apart from selling fresh toddy to motorists and passers by, some toddy tappers are also marketing a complete package of natukodi fry along with kallu in a quiet, rural ambience that delivers a ‘back to roots’ experience to weary urbanites.

Make way for toddy

There’s more for those keen on understanding what kallu is all about. To give their customers a glimpse of how it is collected, a few toddy tappers climb up the palm trees and pluck a fresh bunch of the palm fruit (taati munjal, also called ice apple) and demonstrate how the palm fruit is cut.

Sunita Simon and her group of Triumph Riders are regular visitors to Yadaiah Shankar at Mall village in Ranga Reddy district. Yadaiah is a lanky 65-year-old man who has been collecting kallu for as long he can remember. He is more than happy to welcome people over to his shack. Inside, he has pinned his contact number on a piece of cardboard. “If someone comes in here while I am away drawing toddy at a tree, they can give me a call,” he explains, adding “All my customers come by word of mouth. Some book toddy in advance, along with a request for a meal. My wife cooks the food on such requests and makes spicy natukodi fry.

Fruit of love
  • Palm fruit (Thati munjalu in Telugu or ice apple) is mostly available in summer months
  • When extracted fresh from their shell, ice apples contain sweet water (like tender coconut water)
  • Palm tree growers say the membrane on the ice apple is edible; it actually acts as a coolant and protects against heat strokes
  • The ice apples harden within a few hours after extraction from the shell

Make way for toddy

The best part of this experience, Sunita says, is that one gets to pick the chicken and watch it being cooked by Yadaiah’s wife Bharatamma, thereby catching the recipe too. Toddy tappers not only make their customers feel at home, they also teach first-timers to drink from a cup made with a palm leaf. “We serve in disposable cups only when visitors request us. Most young people from the city like these leaf cups,” shares Yadaiah.

Such experiences are creating a buzz in Hyderabad as chefs and food experts go hunting for traditional food and drinks. “Add to the toddy experience, the joy of getting to eat country chicken in clean open air, under a tree and watch animals grazing by your side is unmatched,” gushes Ritwik Singh, a businessman. He, like others, learnt of this experience via social media. The craze for these kallu spots is an outcome of the social media posts by riders who discovered these places.

All on request

Elsewhere, at Chinta palle in Nalgonda district, closer to Nagarjunasagar dam, 45-year-old Venkatamma manages the family shack. “My husband works hard to extract kallu; he goes up twice — in the morning and evening. So I attend to our customers,” she says.

Palm wine
  • Palm wine can be obtained from the sap of various species of palm trees like date and coconut. A container is fastened to the flower stump to collect the sap.
  • Palm sap begins fermenting within a few hours once collected, lending an alcoholic aroma to the drink. The wine may be allowed to ferment longer, up to a day, to yield a stronger, more sour and acidic taste, preferred by some.

Venkatamma pours the drink into the leaf cup. “If you want to taste the way we cook food, intimate me a day in advance along with the number of people I am supposed to cook for,” she smiles, flashing her dimple. On other days she has the company of her neighbour Ravanamma who brings along a basket with some boiled eggs, papad and spicy salted goodies to go with the toddy.

The toddy tappers, however, aren’t running a restaurant business, it is only done on request. Food is not prepared in advance, because they cannot afford to waste any. “Food cooks fast on firewood; once our customers arrive, we prepare the food; it’s all done in an hour,” assures Bharatamma.

Newbies are advised to drink toddy from a known and trusted source, as adulterated toddy can result in dangerous after effects.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 1:49:25 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/travel/thati-kallu-nagarjunasagar-toddy-palm-toddy-palm-wine-ice-apple/article28086385.ece

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