Mention Iguana meat and many might cringe at the image of the reptile, let alone eating its meat. Brown and scaly, with a mouth full of sharp teeth, the iguana might not look like a nutritious meal.
Ah, but what if we told you that this somewhat exotic meat, is a bit of a delicacy - a dish that people in KL would travel a fair distance for.
And not just Iguana. Wild Boar curry too, that's washed down with a sweet, cloying alcoholic beverage, called Toddy, on a hot afternoon, in the backyard of some nondescript house in Banting. That's what we set out to find one afternoon, and here's the account of our trip.
On our little road trip, all we could talk about were iguana and wild boars. Some believe that the act of rubbing cash on the back of a wild boar, will bring you good luck. Some discerning people can see numbers appearing on the boars’ body, whilst others are rumoured to have struck the local lottery, Magnum 4D, by buying these numbers. On a less happy note, it was reported that about 2 years ago, a 19-year-old youth on a motorcycle died after he crashed into a wild boar. Last year, a 45-year-old man suffered a similar fate. In Malaysia, wild boars are known to roam plantations and farms in the villages/kampung areas and these animals are also notorious for destroying crops in the villages. For the adventurous foodie, the wild boar represents a delectable meal and a great way to experiment with exotic meat, without venturing too far out of your comfort zone. It is afterall, a leaner version of pork. And indeed, the health benefits do make intriguing conversation. Lined up against the big four of pork, chicken, beef and lamb, wild boar contains the least cholesterol, and, bar chicken, the least saturated fat.
And then the conversation in the car moved on to toddy. Toddy is the partly fermented sap of the coconut palm. Toddy used to be a popular drink in South-East Asia and the central Pacific Islands, and the Indians use it as a substitute for yeast when making apam and other Indian delicacies. I love the 'first press' collected early in the morning, and there is no greater feeling than drinking it fresh from the tree, as the sap is sweet and cloying, characteristic only to Toddy. As the day progresses, the collected Toddy starts to ferment and releases a slight "pong". The only way for you to know what I mean is to drink it. It's one of those drinks that smells worse than it tastes really. Toddy is what I would call, an acquired taste. One of its attributes is that the sap will naturally ferment and turn into alcohol, without any additional ingredients. Within four hours of being tapped, it can become tangy and contain up to 14% alcohol. Not only do drinkers get an instant kick out of the inexpensive drink, one too many glasses can cause intoxication. I like the way Toddy slowly ferments in your stomach, making you feel a lot more trashed after a few hours. There is nothing quite like the insidious high that one can get from Toddy. Magic.
Today, it’s not easy to find toddy in the market. In fact, you will not find toddy readily in just any shop on the street or in the city at all. The toddy trade is slowly dying due to the availability of cheap liquor and the difficulty of sourcing for skilled tappers. In the past, there were many toddy shops in the city, but most have since closed, the latest being a century-old shop in Brickfields. Now, toddy can mostly be purchased at selected oil palm estates, in Kapar , at Klang seafood restaurants, and here in Banting, is another place you can find this affordable addictive alcoholic tipple. And oh.. have I not mentioned that it tastes fabulous when drunk with the wildboar curry.
Finally we get there. After traveling for approximately 1.5hours from Kuala Lumpur we reach Banting town. After a series of wrong turns and backtracking, we find the place we were looking. Since the place is so hard to describe, we actually ended up taking photos of the little lane, into which you must turn, from the highway, to find this restaurant that's famous for Iguana meat, Wild Boar Curry and Toddy.
Mrs Nava is a lovely, soft spoken, charming lady
Mrs Nava, is the owner of this place. She runs her unusual, outdoor backyard restaurant from 10am to 6pm everyday. Her Toddy plantation is located in Morib and her husband runs the show there. Some of the big specialities here that people come to eat include, the Mutton marrow, head and belly of the lamb. Also in fascinating abundance is the Iguana (Giant Biawak) lizard and wild boar which we wasted no time ordering. The Wild boar they serve here is very young, characterised by the tender meat, and the oh so chewy skin.
The family also breeds Great Dane pedigrees, from harlequins, merle to mantles. We visited the cages and they were so noisy!
you can pet me.. I am friendly!
sitting outdoors is really relaxing - we finished an entire bottle of Toddy between us!
We try the iguana and the wild boar. I particularly like the wild boar as the meat is succulent and the chewy bits (the skin) is rather addictive especially when eaten with bread. The Iguana meat just tasted like chicken to me. The best way to eat this is to soak up the curry with your bread - what a heavenly flavour.
You can always have the Toddy, to go, if you are in a hurry. There are 2 versions on 'tap'; sweeter or less sweet. These guys will pack it for you. A cautionary word on the bottled toddy. As fermentation continues and is sped up with heat, gas pressure increases in the bottle so you need to release the pressure out of the bottle, ever so slowly. Be sure to do it gently or you will get sprayed by the toddy under pressurized form ... hopefully not in your face, in your car or on your designer wear.
OK, let me try and simplify the directions for you because we had some trouble spotting the wee turning, in the beginning. Head towards Banting. Once you see the sign Telok Datok (on Route 5), it means you are getting closer. The first landmark is the school you see (photo below) - Sekolah Menengah Sultan Abdul Samad, on your right.
Then further along you will see a small path, which is easy to miss. Turn into this path.
After a short distance you will end up in someone's driveway and see a kampung-styled home. This is it! Go around to the back of the garage and you will find the open space where the restaurant is located.Contact person: Mrs Nava - +603 3181 5657 Opening hours - 10am - 6pm