Puso is one of those near perfect foods — a compact pre-measured and cooked portion of white rice in a natural wrapper of woven biodegradable coconut leaves. It even has a natural handle so you can take it home or anywhere without the need for a plastic bag. On a recent trip to Cebu, the site of a passing motorcycle laden with puso being delivered to various roadside food stands or carinderias brought a smile to my face. The bike was moving so fast and I was in a taxi in heavy traffic so I only got one fuzzy photo. What you donâ€™t see are hundreds more puso in-between the rider and the driver and in front of the driver. This delivery had at least 300 puso on board! In the countryâ€™s second largest city with a bustling economy and growing population, itâ€™s really nice to see that the puso still lives on. Folks having lunch or dinner at a roadside stall of barbecued whatever (chicken, pork, innards of all sorts) have one or two puso with their viand. Puso is not uniquely Cebuanoâ€¦ versions of it exist elsewhere in the country as well as in other Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, but for Cebuanos, puso equals home.
Nearly a decade ago, I was in Cebu for a wake. I volunteered to help with the food and one evening we had to prepare for the visit of several hundred farm hands and their families and I had just a few hours noticeâ€¦ We had to send several people to all corners of Cebu scouring every roadside stand to buy every puso in sight and several hundred sticks of barbecue! At a PHP1 for each puso, I thought they were a real bargain. The effort to make the coconut pouch alone was well worth a peso! Today, the price has doubled to PHP2 each and some people say they have gotten smaller. But I still think this is good value. Puso has a distinctive texture (smushed) because the coconut leaves constrains the rice as it is cooked. However, a true Cebuano looks for this texture and the slight flavor imparted by the coconut leaves. I am truly impressed by the cleverness of it all. Think of the millions of little plastic bags that donâ€™t end up in garbage dumps, backyards, esteros and the sea every year as a result of this nifty eco-friendly packaging! The only concern I would have seeing the puso delivered this way is the possibility of noxious motorcycle and car fumes infusing the puso as they careen around the city. I hope they weave those coconut leaves nice and tight!