By Vannette Colmenares
A few years ago, Anthony Bourdain stated that Cebu Lechon in the Philippines is “the best pig ever.” And when I asked him two years later at a talk during the NY Food Festival, he still considered it as the best, surpassing Puerto Rico’s pernil and Thailand’s roasted pig.
But as Cebuanos, we are not only known for the best lechon, but also what pairs with it. I am talking about the hanging rice, or what we Cebuanos call the puso (accent on the last syllable).
Several years ago, I had wanted to experiment on learning the art of making puso. I started with ribbons and plastic strips and looked up for tutorials in YouTube. But I was never successful in making a nice looking one.
Lately, I realized that the teacher I was looking for was just one of my BFFs here in New York. And so, I researched on a supplier of fronds and found out that someone in Brooklyn was supplying fronds.
As soon as my materials came in, I asked my friend Mareza to teach me, to which she obliged. So yesterday afternoon, we had our Puso Making 101.
Puso is actually boiled rice inside woven coconut fronds. The making of puso dates back to the Malay influence and has been carried on through generations. In past eras, merchants would ply puso alongside with barbecued pork or chicken. In Cebu, you can easily find hanging rice on stalls that sell roasted pig, ngohiong (fried spring rolls often using bamboo shoots and assorted veggies).
There is a craze now that uses the puso to dip on a pot of boiling broth known as ‘tuslob buwa’. It is one of those Cebuano ingenuity, wherein a person who has limited means of pairing their puso with some viand would opt to just dip the puso on a pot of boiling flavored broth. I am not so sure of its sanitary repercussions—but they say it’s not that bad. Oh well!
Anyway, puso will not be a thing only to be found in Cebu, because just like me and many other Cebuanos abroad, it is a nostalgic moment especially when paired with foods such as lechon, adidas, ngohiong, barbecue and dipping it in tuslob buwa or ginamos. It makes us feel closer to home. And that’s a Cebuano moment.