Puso / Rice Boiled in Coconut Fronds (Part II)


Once the coconut frond/leaf containers are done, you simply pull back one of the fronds to expose a small square hole near the top of the puso, which you can then fill up to 2/3 full with rice. You may have to test a few with the rice you are using as some types of rice grow or expand more than others…


The long handles or tails of coconut leaves are there for a purpose…


…they are tied together, say ten or 12 pieces per bunch…


…and slowly lowered into a large pot of boiling water where they are left to cook for some 25-30 minutes, depending on the size and amount of puso in a given pot.


Once they are done, they are hung to dry out a little… Cebuanos PREFER to eat them a couple of hours old, when they are quite compact and a little dry.


Cut a puso open with a knife, or alternatively, peel it open by unravelling the fronds. I actually find puso to be a bit “hard” compared to say boiled rice, but there are those who just love this type of preparation. I think it goes particularly well with a vegetable soup and some grilled fish or meat…


The rice is also has a subtle flavor from the coconut leaves, part of its appeal. These are nearly identical to ketupat, or the indonesian version of rice in coconut fronds…


55 Responses

  1. i miss puso! used to bringthem when we went on picnics to the beach or the mountains. definitely great with utan laswa and some grilled fish.

  2. I was taken aback by that Indonesian ketupat. You see, in Pangasinan, we also have rice in coconut fronds, but it is sticky rice cooked with molasses or brown sugar, much like biko, and it is called “inkaldit,” or “patupat”. Photo and post here.

  3. Kai, I believe there is some influence as far north from Indonesia and places south… they must have come back up this way at some point. Remember, our acharra is probably from root word acar, which means pickle in Malay… amongst other words…

  4. In Ilocos I remember when I was still a kid that my grandpa used to make one of this but it’s more kinda sweet and they use sticky rice. I can’t remember the name but I do like them much…anyone knows what is the name of that? … Must be the age for me to forget the name ;).

  5. Hi MM, how about a puso making contest during your eyeball…The winner will get the to write his own topic in market manila :)

  6. Very interesting and enlightening this post. It’s simply rice, yes. But the skill involved to make a functional product is not for everyone. Weave the coconut fronds, “guesstimate” the rice needed and boil till cooked.(How do you know when they’re done?) Hang to dry then split open to eat with your hands with grilled food. Yum.

  7. wow! very creative..

    and very handy..I was in cebu last year and went out island hopping around mactan island..but before we proceeded, our host stopped at a market, where he bought tons of puso..at first, i though they were “kakanin”, I was wondering what are we gonna do with it, I didn’t ask though, and I didn’t know about it, until lunch

  8. thanks! i always wondered how the rice is cooked and I actually thought that the rice is cooked first then stuffed in the coconut frond containers!
    Here, there is delicasy that you see in the streetside during fasting month – called lemak. same concept but instead of coconut fronds, bamboo is used and then the whole bamboo pole with the glutinous rice mixture is grilled/smoked over live coals. Comes out like suman but with the strong bamboo flavour.

  9. Yep, I agree. Medyo matigas nga yung puso as compared to normally-cooked rice. Pero masarap siya ipares sa mga inihaw na ulam. Hindi pa messy sa fingers.

  10. As a rule of thumb some people use the lowest “nipple” (the 4 edges) as to the level of rice to put inside the puso.

  11. That looks marvelous, although I think that the word acharra and acar, came from the Indian word Achaar…I must admit I have never had puso…

  12. j., I wouldn’t be surprised, as the Indians may have also been the source of our bibingka from the Goan bebinca…rose, yes, it’ll be on the menu with the lechons… siegrez, exactly why I was trying to learn how to make them…

  13. Marketman,

    Kai is so right, we do have this is Pangasinan. It is called patupat. Sweet sticky rice is stuff in a sache of young coconut leaves and then boiled in coconut cream or milk with brown sugar or panucha. It’s funny the how they call it in Indonesia ketupat compare to Pangasinan’s “Patupat”

  14. Oh, that triangular shaped rice reminds me of what my mother-in-law taught me how to make years ago. In my book, she makes the best “jungz” (OK..am not sure about the spelling!)…STICKY RICE FILLED WITH YELLOW MUNG BEANS. salted duck egg yolk which she seasons, chinese sausage, chestnuts, chinese mushrooms, seasoned pork belly,…. First time I made it, I was such a klutz , too, MM!..And like Mang Richard, she never gave up until I got it! NOw, I can also do it now blindfolded…with a wide grin on my mother-in-law’s face!!!!

  15. How interesting! I think, I’ve eaten puso only once; way back when I was in grade school. I’ve always thought they stuff the palm “thingie” with cooked rice!!! Ha, you learn new things everyday!

    This is such clever “green” packaging and should be patented :)

  16. so that’s how it works, the rice cooks inside the jacket. how ingenious. the result reminds me a little of ma tsang – a chinese savory suman of sorts with pork belly, chinese sausage, chestnuts inside…

  17. Thanks for featuring traditional Filipino foods like this, it’s a great way to help preserve it too. I’m amazed at the very creative environment-friendly packaging. It’s something we should be proud of! I wonder what are the other native foods & delicacies we have in the Philippines that make use of natural materials like this for wrapping & packaging. I can name a few but I’m sure there are others we may not be aware of. Thanks for all the info.

  18. Yup, that right , Lee…it has all those goodies stuffed inside…It makes really good baon…all you need to eat is one of those and you’re set for the rest of the day..that is why when I make them, I don’t make them as large as she does…I make baby ones which is even harder to form!

  19. hi betty q, i’m sorry i didn’t read your earlier comment about the chinese suman but that’s exactly what this reminded me of as well. unfortunately, the commercial versions available here in nyc chinatown are nowhere near as good as the ones i remember from back home. That’s because they don’t go all out with the ingredients…

    Yours sound really good and kumpleto. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind describing how to make this at some point. Even just the general technigue would be great. I’d like to attempt making one myself (sans the wrapping if possible because it looks complicated)

    BTW, i still remember your home made XO sauce many posts ago. i did try it at home and it was excellent. I think I used mine with eFu noodles and my husband loved it. Thanks for sharing that…

  20. bettyq, the chinese name for the chinese dish you and the others are describing is “zongzi”, “machang” for those who are of fukien descent. Can’t recall the cantonese term for it. Wrapped in banana leaves, made of sticky rice, chicken, braised pork, beans, lotus or chestnut, and sometimes a red egg. There’s a great story about how the machang was made: some mandarin years ago opposed one of the chinese emperors, he eventually threw himself in a river, a martyr to his cause. People made the wrapped rice dish, threw it in the river to show their support (some versions have his supporters throwing it in the water because the had to make sure his spirit ate something in the underworld). I think the “anniversary” of that event is still celebrated in China, special machangs are made just for that event, 5th day of the 5th month after lunar new year. Perhaps another reader will know more about it.

  21. I think I’ve only had puso once in my entire life, when we went to a classmate’s house in Malolos for their town fiesta (kung saan-saan kami umaabot noon para lang makipamiyesta!). I remember being awed by the big pot w/ the non-stop “loading and unloading” of these little triangular packages. Nanghinayang pa nga ako since all that work went into it, only for us to unravel and eat it in no time. What did I know, I was only 18 at that time. Oh, MM, how I love visiting your blog. I never know what memories might get triggered. Thank you for all you do (again and again).
    BTW, Betty Q, I just went for dimsum this weekend and had the savory sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf. Similar ba yon? It didn’t have red egg, though. Just some chicken and chinese sausage. The texture of the rice was different, though. Sort of magaspang. Still, it was good!

  22. Somehow i remembered the puso of my youth differently. It was softer, stickier and more tasty. I don’t know if it’s the type of rice that was available at the time. I don’t remember the term long grain rice then, maybe this is a later variety. The shorter grain rice is more sticky than the long grain I think, like the japanese rice brand Kokuho Rose (if anybody is familiar with that)

    Puso is also good with dinuguan.

  23. i’ve eaten this kind of suman in a chinese restaurant with the same ingredients that you use, betty q…each suman wrapped beautifully in lotus leaves. the lotus leaf adds a distinct flavor to the suman…

  24. machang- that’s the name of the lotus-leaf wrapped sticky rice concoction with mushrooms, stewed pork, dried shrimp and chestnuts. a dimsum shop here makes a very good version. is it called by any other name elsewhere?

    would love to have a recipe for it.

  25. hi MM, im from bulacan and we have a similar version. im not sure if what’s the real name but we call it “balisuso”. instead of coconut leaf, we make use of banana leaf turned into a cone. it renders a green color to the outside part of the rice and often we put pandan to infuse wonderful scent.

  26. i miss “puso”! wish i could just pack my things and take the next flight tomorrow. puso in tacloban city with matching BBQ yummy! thanks marketman

  27. Thank you Mila for that brief Chinese history lesson. I will pass it on to my kids. I don’t think my hubby knows about the origin of what he loves to eat!

    Jadedfork, Millet, Estella and Bagito: the one we eat at dimsum is probably the “budget version” of what my mom-in-law and I make. My boys, can easily eat 2 of those dimsum ones. Anyway, when it is that time of the year to make this, my MIL makes about 100 of these…30 for us, 30 for SIL and 30 for BIL (when he was still alive). Since it takes forever to do this, I usually give her a hand. It is sad that my sister-in-law never made an effort to learn it for I think this is one of those things that is passed down from generation to genration. So I considered it an honor when my MIL took me aside and showed me how to do it. …I got sidetracked again!…Back to dimsum…The lotus leaf one is: wash sticky rice or glutinous rice until it runs clear. Then cook in rice cooker, season the rice using chicken stock (para mas masarap) in place of water. If no chicken stock prepared, then just season the water with a bit of salt, white pepper, sesame oil and a splash of oyster sauce. When it is done, arrang on a wide tray and make “paypay” until it is no longer steaming. Then in a skillet, saute a some shallots maybe 5 until soft and golden, then add half pound of coarsely ground pork…briefly stir fry and then add about 1 tbsp. rice wine or dry sherry, some mushroom soy for color(not too much) a bit of water, 1 tsp. sugar, pinch of 5 spice powder, and diced shitaki mushrooms. Cook it covered until pork is tender. When done, addd cut chinese sausahe. Then take your lotus leaf of BAMBOO LEAVES (which you have soaked in water overnight and then in boiling water for about 5 minutes to make it pliable…you do this if the bamboo leaves are the dried ones…some stores carry the pretreated ones ready for wrapping). Place a scoop of cooked rice, then make a well in the center and add the good stuff. Place another scoop and cover the goodies. Then wrap it like you would wrap a lumpia…this is using a lotus leaf. If using bamboo leaf. Place a tbsp. of rice, flatten it and filling in the center and another tbsp. of rice, flatten it. Roll into a cylinder and get another leaf and Roll it the otherway, Place in steamer and steam.

    For the triangular ones, be prepared to spend three days. Day 1: soak dried bamboo leaves in hot water overnight. You might need to buy more than you need since my MIL like sorting them out picking the nice, whole intact ones and wide as well. The smaller ones are kept as add ons. Soak your yellow beans, chestnuts,and dried mushrooms. Cut the pork into cubes like inch pieces. Season with salt, white pepper, sesame oil, and flavoured oil(MIL keeps the oil when she makes fried chicken or pork chops) and also 5 spice powder. She uses thae TANCHA method. Keep the pork in the cooler. Next day, drain all those things mentioned above. Now, in a wok, heat up some of the flavoured oil…not much…it’s just seasoning the beans, etc. When the oil is hot, add just 1 garlic clove and a tiny knob of ginger which is just squashed! When fragrant, remove them and add the thoroughly, drained beans. Kepp on stirring until sort of dried and getting a bit smoky. DO NOT BURN! Put in a bowl. Do the same procedure for the chestnuts. Then season those things in the bowl with again some of the oil, a splash of sesame oil white pepper and salt. Adjust seasoning if needed. Now, the duck egg, buy the salted raw ones. Wash the egg, and crack open getting the yolk only. Cut in half and season with only sesame oil and white pepper. Cut the chinese sausage in 1 inch pieces. Drain the malagkit thoroughly and season it with sesame oil, white pepper, some of the fried chicken oil again and a bit os salt. Again…tancha method. Taste and adjust seasoning.

    Assembly line…It is hard for me to describe the folding technique but I will do my best. I hope you can picture this guys. Take a 2 nice piece of bamboo leaf side by side oppsite ends together. Take or hold the bottom end and fold it over the leaves to form a cone tucking or holding the bottomends underneath resting it on your palm.So now you have a cone. now get one of those skinny ones and tuck it inside the cone if what you have is not wide nough. So, now place a tbsp. or two of seasoned malagkit and 1 of each palaman….1 tbsp. of seasoned yello beans. Top with another tbsp. or two of malagkit. DO NOT FILL IT RIGHT UP TO THE TOP!!!!Now, holding the cone, on the palm of your left hand…(I am right handed!) you have a pointy end facing you and a flat end on your hand. Pinch the sides of the flat end about only 1 inch. Pull the top leaves OVER the top now and towards the pointy end gathering the sides of leaf as neatly as you can and fold excess to side. Wrap it with strings. MIL gets the nidpoint of the string and wraps it aroung the middle of the package….holds one end and starts twirling it toards one end and does the same with the other end and wraps it over the top and ties it.

    Then pack them in a pot cover it with water and boil them for hours on end…maybe half a day.

    This can be frozen!!!

  28. Yeah! BettyQ, do you have the recipe for ma-chiang? I tried it in one of the Chinese Restos in Colon, Cebu and I was hooked! Yummy-Chinese-Meal-With-Pork-In-Banana-Leaves! Puso is very convenient to bring for parties, and to the beach; best with pork/chicken bbq (chiken skin) and siomai! As long as you have a swiss knife to cut it open, you’re good to go! No utensils needed! (Just make sure hands are clean)

  29. thank you so much, BettyQ! ma tsang sounds daunting, but i prefer this over the lo mai kai that they have in most dimsum places…

  30. many thanks, bettyq! i knew you’d be the right person to ask. and you just clarified something else for me- for a while i was confused as to whether machang was wrapped like a square parcel, or a triangle. turns out they can be both. and the way you write your recipes makes it sound doable. hmm…am already thinking of doing this for the all saints’ day family potluck!

    jadedfork, aren’t ma chang and lo mai kai one and the same? is there a difference?

  31. millet, lo mai kai (cantonese) is what they call the square one wrapped in lotus leaves. this is the one that appears in most dimsum places.

    ma tsang (hokkien) or, as mila pointed out, zongzi (mandarin) is the pyramid shaped one. i rarely see them served as dimsum, but they’re usually available to buy in chinatown food stores. IMO, the home made ones that you can order are the best because they dont skimp on the ingredients.

    The contents of both are actually quite different. Lo mai kai has ground chicken or pork while ma tsang has a whole chunk of pork belly, which in my opinion is why it’s the hands down winner ;)

    bettyq describes how to make both in her post.

    btw, these two are actually on the wiki if anyone else is interested in reading about them…


  32. Please try doing it even once…I know it can be daunting….even thinking about doing it can be daunting! But believe me when I say, that you will not buy the ready made ones once you do your very own….unless you really, really have to! That is why we make a LOOOOOOT of these and keep it frozen… I am afraid that making these will end up with me for my sons are not interested in learning how to do this…

    Are you in Hong Kong, Jadedfork?

    Millet, while you are at it…make a whole loooooooot and freeze them! Just defrost when you want it and re-steam it again….hey, you don’t need lotus leaf or bamboo leaves, I think banana leaves would do…like a tamales..that’s it …it’s a Chinese tamales!

  33. no, bettyq, i live in nj now but grew up in manila.

    you’re right, the store bought ma-tsang isn’t great. the best ones i’ve had here in the us were home-made ones from sfo that a friend of mine ordered and brought over as pasalubong.

    sayang naman that your sons have no interest in making it. what a great tradition to pass down. i’m guessing that you have a treasure trove of hokkien food recipes. that’s quite rare here in the us where the chinese food is mostly cantonese-influenced.

    i’ll have to read your post more carefully, especially the wrapping part, and report back when i actually attempt it…study muna :)

  34. Millet: I made these for the boys merienda later…turned out really good ! I have to make more ….maybe these would be ideal for your family potluck…not too much time consuming than the triangle ones unless of course you already have bought the ingredients for that. I made the square parcel…buy some chicken thighs, skinless and boneless. then cut them into strips, not too thin though….put in a bowl and season with salt, pepper, a bit of sugar, sesame oil, rice wine or dry sherry, a little light soy, a bit of cornstarch, a bit of canola oil, and a PINCH of BAKING SODA! Let this marinate for a few hours. Soak some dried Chinese mushrooms, (cut into quarters if big or halves if small) some red Chinese dates (if you have them), or dried longan, and cut up some chinese sausage. When you are ready to cook. heat up some canola oil in a skillet until SMOKING HOT! Then pan fry your chicken first until lightly browned. Remove from heat and place on a platter. Then chop up some garlic and a little ginger. Fry until fragrant and add the chicken back to the skillet and add rest of ingredients. Add a little water and oyster sauce and cover until chicken is done. You can add some scallions cut into 1 inch pieces. You don’t want this dish swimming in sauce though I prefer to have a bit of sauce clinging to the goodies! Adjust seasoning. I like this better than the ground pork filling…MAS MASARAP!!! If you cannot get Chinese red dates or dried longan, I think using firm nice ripe mangoes will be good as well. The red dates or longan just adds sweetness to the dish!

    Here’s what you can do as well…using bananaleaves. I have no clue how they serve it there in Chinese dim sum places.Anyhow, lay a nice piece of banana leaves on your counter…singe them first. Maybe double it up. Then add a scoop of cooked seasoned malagkit, flatten it into a rectangle then put your filling on the side near you. Start rolling like when you are making sushi using a mat if you have one. If not, use a clean towel. then when you have a cylinder, this is how you shape it into a nice tight log….Seam side down of the banana leaf goodie., fold the end of the towel over it ..the end if the towel is just at the base of the cylinder. Can you picture it? I use my metal scraper and PUSH THE end of the towel as close as you can to the base and sides…trying to sort of squeeze the base to make it tight. …not too tight or it will BURST! Then fold the ends and wrap with strips of banana leaves. When you unmold, they can slice it like an embutido. Neat, eh?

  35. bettyq and jadedfork, many, many thanks! i will definitely make these! dried lotus leaves and bamboo leaves are available at the grocery. banana leaves are available in my neighbors’ backyard :-)

    bettyq, the cylinder technique sounds like the same method for suman, right? there is a maguindanao delicacy called “pastil” which sounds very much like this – it is a suman of rice with a core of very finely minced chicken adobo. the recipe and style vary per family, but the traditional, painstaking way definitely tastes way better.

  36. betty q, thank you so much for sharing! don’t worry if your boys aren’t interested in acquiring this skill, who knows perhaps your future daughters-in-law might be, just like you bonded with your MIL over these. :)

  37. Yup, Millet…it’s more like a really FAT SUMAN. ..but for the ordinary suman like I posted above, you don’t have to squish the suman so tight…it’s just for this filled savoury suman. I squish it to a tight cylinder so the filling is “SIKSIK!” and not falling apart when you slice it or cut it open.

    A few years ago, a friend made suman in the form of a triangle…nore like suman sa lihiya but in a triangle shape. I don’t know what they call it. So I think, the banana leaves can be used to form the triangle ones as well….maybe it would be a lot easier to shape since it is wide enough to be twisted around.

    You know, bagito?…I didn’t think of that…you’re right, hopefully my boys will marry someone who would take an interest in acquiring this skill…keeping my fingers crossed!

  38. bettyq, am rereading your ma tsang recipe (the triangle one). got a bit confused when it came to the rice:

    1) “Drain the malagkit thoroughly and season it with sesame oil, white pepper, some of the fried chicken oil again and a bit os salt.”

    At this point, is the rice already cooked?

    2) Also on this one, how do i know that they’re done?

    “Then pack them in a pot cover it with water and boil them for hours on end…maybe half a day.”

    hope you’re still following this thread. thanks

  39. jadedfork…the malagkit is NOT cooked…

    MIL knows it’s cooked by feel..since you shouldn’t pack it when you are filling the bamboo leaves to give room for expansion for the malagkit as it cooks, it should really be “POOFY” when it’s done ..like it is “SIKSIK” it really takes a good 4 to 6 hours. …the belly pork will really be tender fork….like cooking adobo. I think it takes that long because we make HUGE batches of these and use the biggest caldero she has and rfeally fill that caldero right up to the top with the Chinese suman. But if you are just making 10 or so, maybe if you use your big caldero to cook that 10 Chinese suman, it would be done in half that time!

  40. I’ve always wondered how it’s cooked –this puso. I lived in Cebu (when I was very young) and friends would bring them on picnics.
    There is also a Bulacan version where they use banana leaves. Great for picnics too!! We had a blowout recently and our colleague from Malolos brought this balisuso. I was asking him how to cook it. Would be interesting to cook this when there are balikbayans. I think it’s simpler than the puso (cause of the woven fronds).
    Amazing Marketmen how even just with rice we have these versions. Great!

  41. Hi

    I really miss the puso w/ yummy pork barbecue in Cebu. Am planning to make a bunch of it this coming Christmas, can somebody tell me where to get supply of coconut fronds? Appreciate your help. Thank you.


  42. ate puso before when I worked in Cebu, Im looking for a place in Metro Manila that serves rice cooked this way.

  43. hi fredo, if you want puso, you may order from me. we’re just in san juan city very near greenhills shopping center. ;)

  44. Hi Betty Q,

    I appreciate you sharing your recipes. My grandaunt used to make really great machang but she migrated to the States. Although she was able to teach me some, I never really had the confidence to pursue it. Thank you and hope I can get in touch with you.





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