Puso / Rice in a Coconut Leaf Pouch

Puso is one of those near perfect foods — a compact pusopre-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 don’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 country’s second largest city with a bustling economy and growing population, it’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 Cebuano… 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 notice… 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 don’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!


11 Responses

  1. Interesting article! And very heart-warming too. ;o) I
    I think there maybe a Tsinoy version of the Cebuano puso, it
    it’s called ‘ma-chang’, malagkit rice cooked with soy
    sauce, mushrooms, meat and five-spice (?).

    It’s also wrapped triangually with leaves (coconut?)and
    makes for one very filling meal.

  2. i am a true-blue bisdak, and puso is a favorite. i can eat it as is, but it is best with lechong baboy, lechong manok, and dinuguan. :)

  3. this puso took me home today.. the natural flavour of the
    coconut leaves makes the rice taste better.
    hayy MM my way to Cebu soon, few more months….

  4. Puso reminds me of my late grandfather. He always serves it whenever his Tagalog apos come to visit. (He doesn’t eat rice that much, boiled corn grits serves as his rice). He’s from Davao, perhaps puso is not uniquely Cebuano? Or is that something that Davaoeños got from Cebuanos? :)

  5. In Pangasinan, it’s called Inkaldit or Patopat.
    I want to know it’s name in other parts of the Philippines if it found in other provinces.

    Now where did it come from or it’s origens?

    how about the Indonesian version, if any?

  6. The Indonesian versions are called (ke)tipat and (ke)tupat, and like Cebuano puso, these are usually made with regular rice. When I was in Bali, I had one made out of the native Balinese red rice (gaga) which was really good – it’s just that being unused to eating rice this way, I was only able to eat 1-1/2 packets. My Balinese friends who were with me at the time teased me jokingly by saying “don’t tell us you’re starting your diet NOW”, especially since they knew that I was capable of eating a lot of food… Ah, good memories.

    They are also essential elements for a cleansing offering dedicated to the malevolent ground spirits once every fifteen days, on a day in the Balinese calendar called Kajeng Kliwon. This particular day is known as a time when these spirits become more ornery than usual, so the offerings have to be “upgraded”, so to speak.

  7. Thank you so much for this wonderful article. Very heart-warming indeed.

    Hit upon this in a desperate process of looking for plastic stand-up pouches with a zip for my suppliers in PH. What an uplifting surprise!

    Not the first time looking in. Not the first time enjoying what is written either. But about time to send over a note of appreciation and gratitude.

    Vielen Dank!


  8. nice. magpapadeliver kami dito ng puso sa manila. empty coconut pouch ng puso only. txt or call 09104243078/09064307289

  9. I live in Los Angeles, CA. Anybody knows where I can get cconut leaves so I can make my own “puso”?

  10. In the Ilocos it is called “patopat”. I remember one of my aunties making hundreds of this “goodie” for my wedding table. Included were cascaron, sinoman and bibingka. The tradition was to give these wrapped “goodies” to friends and family who gave monetary tributes to the bride and groom. This practice followed our family from Lapog Ilocos Sur to San Francisco



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