Puso / Rice Boiled in Coconut Fronds (Part I)


Puso are one of those incredibly perfect foods… boiled rice in a biodegradable package. It is nutritious, delicious, hygenic, easy to carry or transport, easy to open up, keeps the rice clean, can be brought out to the fields, a picnic, etc. And it doesn’t mess up any pots or pans or utensils when you cook them. All you need to master is the weaving process…simple, right? Of course the simplest looking things are often the most difficult to do. And of a dozen folks in our Cebu office, not one among them knew how to weave a puso container made out of coconut leaves or fronds. All admit to having eaten hundreds if not thousands of servings of rice purchased or cooked in this manner, but few had any clue how to make the little packages. It was time to call in an expert, and “Richard” (who made puso for a living) was asked to come to the office to teach me how to make a puso, ineschange for a modest “consulting” fee. I wanted to know how to make puso because of several upcoming events where I planned to serve rice cooked in this manner…


Starting with a piece of young coconut frond with two “leaves,” Richard took these two pieces and quickly formed an empty diamond in less than say 15-20 seconds. It was my intention to completely document the method so that I could preserve this fascinating way of packaging rice and make it available to all of you who were curious.


So I first photographed Richard twisting and turning and weaving and pulling and tightening… I asked him to slow down and do it again.


And he obliged, again and again and again. I suppose there was definitely a pattern to the effort, but I can tell you, this was definitely not my thing. I may have finished graduate school and scored well on standardized tests, but I always failed the basket weaving course in grade school and my brain obviously has weaving issues…


Now I must say that Richard has made several hundred of these wrappers everyday for the past 10+ years, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that he was whipping them out at lightning speed and without thinking about each and every step. I bet he could literally make these while blindfolded!


He could make diamond shapes, pyramidical shapes and both in large or small versions…


This is what the small diamond shaped package should look like… and with that, I was ready for my STEP-BY-STEP TUTORIAL. And never have I felt so dense and incompetent in my entire life… :)


People who know what they are doing can’t necessarily teach the skill to others, particularly dense others… I followed every move just as Richard instructed…


He was patient and “hands-on”…


…but I struggled every step of the way, convinced my fingers were too big, too clumsy or too uncoordinated…


…and for a brief moment I thought I had nailed this the first time I attempted it…


A couple more weaves and…


This outrageously bad outcome. And another similar result. And again.


By the third or fourth try, I still ended up with this, and nearly gave up…


But lo and behold, as if a remedial student resurrected by summer school…


I managed to finally complete a pretty darned perfect little puso wrapper. My one and only. I told Richard I was paying him to come back every time we needed 100 or more puso to be cooked. It just seemed so much more efficient to bring in the expert than figure this out myself. Do not ever ask me to demonstrate this, I don’t think I could actually do it again! :)


35 Responses

  1. I’ve always had great admiration for those with these type of skills. MM you’re very wise to leave it to the experts.

    I’m now curious about how to get the rice inside before they’re cooked.

  2. I found a lot of instructional videos on youtube for making “ketupat” in case anybody wants to try their hand at making these packets. Some use colored ribbons to clearly show where the weaves go in and out.

  3. Good work MM! Yeah, I want to know to how they get the rice in there… In cebu I mostly hear puso called “hanging rice”

  4. so THAT’s what they’re called! interesting …

    pardon me, dear MM, but the initial results of your labor were so pathetic they actually looked … CUTE!!! :-)

    however, i can relate. was all thumbs whenever crafts time at school came along. *sigh* i did better at sewing just the basic stitches, and sketching. more elaborate stuff required calling in the Marines (mama or my brothers). just to tutor, mind you. i finished them all by myself.

    kudos to Richard for his endless patience and marvelous skill. and to you too for being candid and humble enough to show that you are only too human and can feel dense and incompetent, too. but then again, don’t we all when we’re out of our element? fish out of water, ‘ika nga.

    i do so enjoy reading your posts! you always make my day! thank you!!

  5. There are puso available in Tagum, davao norte but I am not fond of eating them…but when I came to Cebu everywhere I look puso is available….my boyfriend would laugh whenever I say…grabe ang daming puso dito….whenever I crave for siomai and we’d ho to Tisa in Labangon (here in cebu) I would be able to consume 6 puso in one sitting accompanied by one of the best siomais I’ve ever tasted (to think I grew up on dimsum with my grandfather being a chinese that grew up in China and wa a good cook)i do admire thir skill in puso making and really puso making provides livelihood to a lot of people here in Cebu!

  6. The “puso” rice tastes yummier in a natural way when cooked this way. This is just so drop-dead delicious with lechon!!!

  7. with all the lifestyle around plastics, this organic way of packaging should really be encouraged everywhere our islands! The Japanese have even many coffeetable books about their artistry in this field! Thanks MM for the candid documentation of your lesson in making puso–quite abstract (your creation) and would pass my “kilatis” :-) but then the Cebuanos would think otherwise. ;-)

  8. Hi MM, Your Puso and flavored suman combine together will go a long way. I’m sure it will be a nice gift pack this coming christmas. Just wondering if everyone cooks with their passion in mind like the french and present it like the japanese do, filipino foods will go a long way internationally.

  9. bernadette, there is a book out soon by Marilen Espiritu on natural packaging methods in the Philippines… look out for it in bookstores soon…

  10. I have to say, MM, that the result of your first attempt gave me a good laugh for the morning. =) Yes, sometimes it is worthwhile to pay an expert than to do things yourself if it takes so much of your time and effort.

  11. the first time my sons encountered puso was in a chicken barbecue place. i noticed my sons had still not bagun eating several minutes after we had. turns out they were very patiently trying to unravel the puso weave by weave!

    i wish there was a way to inter-weave pandan leaves through the coconut leaves, just to perfume the rice.

  12. The first time I ever saw this way of serving rice was when we lived in a mining town in Misima Island, Papua New Guinea. They cooked the “hanging rice” in coconut milk. This reminded me of our suman. It’s YUMMO… but difficult to cut open to get to the rice… You need a knife or a pair of scissors to get into it. Then again…the anticipation is half the fun, isn’t it?

  13. I miss this. Used to eat this at roadside eateries paired with pork barbeque. Its a perfect pairing coz you won’t need a plate or utensils

  14. In Ilocos, we have sweet version we call sinambong in a rectangular-shaped woven coconut fonds. In my kitchen, we use glutinous rice boiled in a thin consistency of moscovado and water. I like the glutinous rice loosely packed so that the moscovado can penetrate the glutinous rice right in the middle. You can see lots of these sinambong in the market during sugarcane harvest.

  15. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with the left brain – right brain inclinations, but somehow we realize that life is fair. One can never be good in everything! True?

  16. Your first and second attempts could be xmas decor!
    I tried to learn how to make chinese knots a few years back. My fingers are way too big to make them look even half as nice as your final puso attempt. MM, can you ask Richard to do a really slow demo at the lechon party?

  17. Our school canteen at Sacred Heart (Boys) used to serve puso and bbq for recess at least once a week and everyone in the whole high school would be in a rush to buy and chomp these down! I’m thankful that my son’s yaya knows how to do this (I think she used to sell these back in Cebu).

    BTW, one very practical reason why rice is cooked and stored this way is that it keeps the rice for longer periods, so long as you hang them, of course. And puso is best eaten cold, if not slightly warmed, but definitely not hot.

  18. Mila, Richard will probably do puso for the eyeball…will see if he is still around in time for the lunch…they tend to make these a few hours before they are eaten… Marketfan, I am definitely missing the part of the brain that does weaving and coiling… :)

  19. Hi MM,

    sorry, but I laughed at the pic of your first attempt….but you pulled it off…..kudos on your perseverance and to Richard!

  20. Puso making is a vanishing craft inasmuch as few people care to learn how to make it these days. Thanks MM for posting, I have wanted to learn this for a long time. ‘Guess practice makes perfect!

  21. Thanks MM for the tip on the book on Philippine packaging! Will take note of it…and keep all my siblings on the look-out for it (as their birthday present of me :-)!)

  22. I would have puso rice and pork bbq almost every night on my last few weeks of studying for the board exams in Labangon, Cebu. Not only do they taste good, but they’re easy on the pockets too! kakamiss!

  23. I know how to weave the puso container in single (as seen on your tutorial) and the double technique (as seen on the above photo). My ‘siatong’ playmates were allowed to play only after they completed 5000 or more containers. My playmates parents supplied puso in one of the puso stands in market. No one taught me how to weave, I learned by just looking and the countless hours of waiting (which seemed like forever and a day) so we could start ‘siatong’ or ‘tago’tago’.

  24. Wow, I remember when I was a kid, my cousin’s yaya taught us how to weave this. We weaved a lot and used it as “sipa.” I didn’t know that you could actually fill it with rice…

  25. am sorry MM… i can’t help but laugh but i admire you for your perseverance.. :)

    me, i can’t learn how to eat puso the proper way… that’s why i am not really crazy about it

  26. Congratulations! I share with you the fascination with making puso rice pouches.

    I am publishing a book with the Ateneo de Manila University Press showing how to weave puso casings, among other things we could weave out of the palm leaves. It will be out early next year, hopefully.

  27. I come from Cebu and I MISS EATING PUSO especially with BBQ and NGOHIONG!! MMMMMMMM!!! Sadly, there is none here in Manila.
    I had been taught be my driver how to weave the puso container but it is so hard and it takes practice to make it good. Kudos to those puso makers in Cebu! You make the Cebuanos proud

  28. gusto jud nako ang PUSO kay mao man ni ang among negosyo diri sa Bogo, Cebu. ug bisan mao ra ni among negosyo pero I’m proud of it. just search in youtube video, The Best Puso In Town, akong anak nagbuhat.

    Busa kon kinsa man ang gusto mo order namo ug PUSO,, diri sa BOGO, CEBU just contact 09158545042.Look for Marlyn Ligutan, inside Bogo Public Market..


  29. tried making puso too when i was living in Cebu but could never get it right..but I can make a toy ball out of coconut leaves very easily..hmmm, wonder why…



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