Puso: Cebu’s heart of rice

Categories Food
Finished product, the puso is now cooked, the wrapping blanched and hot. A sharp knife is passed to open it.
Finished product, the puso is now cooked, the wrapping blanched and hot. A sharp knife is passed to open it.

Speak of Cebu and images of the Sto. Niรฑo , the provinceโ€™s patron, come to mind. And so does the valiant Lapu-Lapu, sweet mangoes, the famous lechon, guitars and beaches. But it is more than that. Cebu is a special and beautiful place. It is also my home.

Unless you’re unfortunately bound by the four corners of your hotel room or the idea of a Cebu vacation is limited to resorts, casinos and bars without, for a moment, meeting the man in the street, then I guess, you miss a big part of your touristy junket in this beautiful island province.

A typical morning's preparation at a V Rama household where puso making is the major source of income.
A typical morning's preparation at a V Rama household where puso making is the major source of income.

Puso, is quite obiquitous and, like the Sto. Nino, lechon and dried mangoes, it is one of Cebu’s iconic images. Nevermind if its also found in some parts of the country, Indonesia and Malaysia in various names, forms and filling.

In the past, this biodegradable, handy and traditional food pouch was said to be exlusively for the deity’s pleasure as it formed part of ritual offerings is now everyday street food paired with barbecued pork, chicken, seafood and entrails in various streetside foodstalls. It’s de rigeur at Larsians near the Fuente Osmena. At an outing at the beach or even at house parties, its still a popular, no fuss choice paired with lechon, dugo-dugo (blood stew), and other Cebuano dishes. For kinamot (eating with the hands sans spoon and fork) dining, I prefer to have puso anytime, anywhere.

Young coconut leaves stripped and ready for weaving.
Young coconut leaves stripped and ready for weaving.
Making the puso, to the untrained, is difficult. But for these pros, it just takes less than a minute.
Making the puso, to the untrained, is difficult. But for these pros, it just takes less than a minute.
Two kinds of puso in different sizes
Two kinds of puso in different sizes
The hole of the puso is where uncooked rice is poured.
The hole of the puso is where uncooked rice is poured.

Some call it hanging rice although that term is so simplistic considering the intricacy of the weave and the pride that Cebuanos have for this popular fare. Simply, puso is rice cooked inside a woven pouch made from young coconut leaves. The Cebu version is typically called the kinasing owing to its heart shaped form (in the Cebuano language, heart is kasing-kasing). There is also the binaki or froglike form. These comes in various sizes and can cost from P2 for a mouthful (in Larsian but can be cheaper when ordered directly from the puso maker) to as much as P5 for larger ones.

Like what they usually say, you’re trip to Cebu is never complete if you’ve never eaten puso.

Puso wrappings readied for filling
Puso wrappings readied for filling
Once the wrapping is ready, these are filled, about 80% with rice
Once the wrapping is ready, these are filled, about 80% with rice
Filled puso is cooked for around 20-30 minutes depending on the size.
Filled puso is cooked for around 20-30 minutes depending on the size.
Off the fire and hot.
Off the fire and hot. These bunch of puso are now ready for distribution. For this family, they already have ready buyers.
After being cooked, its now time for distribution to many foodstalls along V. Rama Ave.
After being cooked, its now time for distribution to many foodstalls along V. Rama Ave.
On the dining table, puso is handy food anytime, anywhere
On the dining table, puso is handy food anytime, anywhere and a main feature of streetside food stalls
Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I'm open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

17 thoughts on “Puso: Cebu’s heart of rice

  1. Wow nice entry, very detailed story. Nayaya ako minsan sa isa sa mga fiesta sa amin, kung saan ang host ay kapampangan meron din silang nai-serve na ganyan, kaso sa kanila conical (balisuso) yung hugis. Ang sarap yun lang masasabi ko, lalo na kung bagong ani yung bigas.

  2. Great detailing as usual, estan! Good thing pinayagan kang kunin yung step by step procedure. Parang trade secret yan dba? hehehehe! One of our best locally made-packages. Nagutom tuloy ako.

  3. is there anyone selling puso here in manila?
    i remembered i was seven yrs old when i first ate a puso in cebu, at 4am waiting for the barko to arrive. ๐Ÿ™‚
    puso, “bulad” and hot chocolate. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. We used to make puso at home for special occasions, but I never quite got the hang of it. Taga-lagay lang ako ng bigas bago i-seal at iluto yung puso. Hehe. We still make our own budbod, though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. @ Joycee – You can find puso in far south tagalog, quezon and bicol makes them – but production is not like the ones that we have there in Cebu

    @ Estan – ka miss to’ bai!

  6. Hi estan

    I was reading your blog and the comments of friends. I just want you to know that we will be mass producing puso for distribution in Metro Manila para matagbaw ang kahidlaw sa mga sugbuanon ug uban pang mga kaigsoonan nga nangandoy sa availability ini in Metro Manila.

    I started with this some six years ago but was forced to stop because of the continued availability of the coco fronds. This time we hope we will be able to sustain the supply for those who are wishing to “bring Cebu over” and satisfy their craving anytime for this delectable pair of puso with pork/chix barbeques, anything sinugba ug uban pa.

    I can be contacted at 932-2450 or 359-6162

  7. Wow. They make it in areas in Mindanao where there are predominant Cebuano population. I had puso in Dipolog, Dapitan, Misamis, Polomolok, and Glan. The Cebuano towns of Negros Island like Bais, Tanjay, Malatapay, Zamboanguita and Dumaguete… have puso culture as well. They have various shapes. Dumaguete like the bigger “binalek” shape than the smaller “kinasing” and “binake” of Cebu. Tabuan has the common “binaba” shape while in Anda Bohol, they make a very complicated puso called “binangkito”. It is really very interesting.

  8. I saw above the big sized puso. A professor from Cebu Normal University told me that it is named after an orchid called “manan-aw” . The smaller puso is called in various names: “binake”, “sinayop”, “binaba” or “badbaranay” depending on the area in Cebu.

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