December 17, 2010

puso (rice in woven coconut leaf)

puso – (pu-sô) [n.] palm wrapped rice. Rice cooked in heart-shaped or diamond-shaped woven coconut palm.
patupat in Capampangan
bugnoy in Ilonggo [Hiligaynon]
tamu in Ta’u-sug, Chavacano [Zamboangueño], and Joloanon
The rice is cooked or steamed packed in a heart-shaped or diamond-shaped woven coconut leaf (a.k.a. a ball of woven palm). The palm used in packing rice is the young and newly sprouting leaf of coconut that is still whitish yellow in color, that same kind of coconut palm we saw during Palm Sunday in Philippine Catholic churches.

The hanging puso at the Fishport in Danao City, Cebu
The midrib is removed and the long strip of palm’s blade is skillfully woven into a diamond-shaped ball then half-filled with rice grains. Weaving a ball with strips of palm requires instruction from a skilled weaver and must be practiced to perfect the shape, size and tightness of the woven palm strips. 

Through a narrow opening between the overlaying strips, the palm ball is half filled with rice grains. The filled palm balls are placed in a cooking pot filled with water equivalent to the total measurement of all rice grains used. 

Cooking is simply done by boiling until all the water is absorbed. The absorption would cause the grains to expand and fill all the space inside the woven palm ball. When the rice are tender, puso is already cooked.

Puso at the Taboan in Inopacan, Leyte
To serve, puso is sliced into halves and the mold of cooked rice is taken out and eaten either by picking it by hand or cut it further into chunks and scoop the lumps with a spoon.

A basket of puso at the Public Market in Iligan City, North Cotabato
In eateries and barbecue stands in Visayas, it is often sold or displayed hanging on the stalls. Hence, the Visayans fondly called it as pusô because it is likened to the shape of a  hanging banana heart (banana blossom) also called by the same name but pronounced as pú. But more often, packs and bundles of  pusô rice are just laid down on display counter or table. 

Pú sa saging (banana heart) derived its name by comparing its shape as with semblance to the heart of animals. You may wonder why the Visayans called it puso when “heart” is actually called kasingkasing in Visayas (Cebuano, Boholano, Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) and Waray).

Puso being sold at the Taboan (trading marketplace) in the Reclamation Area in Inopacan, Leyte

Well, the name is borrowed from the Tagalog word púsò (heart). It has something to do with the fact that Tagalog is the lengua franca anywhere in the country. The natives of southwestern Mindanao would pronounce it as pú-su and the Visayans would say pu-sô who brought it back to Mindanao  when Visayans (the Ilonggos, Cebuanos, and Boholanos) migrated and occupied most part of northern, eastern, southwestern, and western  Mindanao.

Most writers, particularly those who are not from Visayas or Mindanao, would call it "hanging rice" in their write ups or articles when writing in English. But the truth is, puso is more often displayed and sold laid down on the  table.  When dining, it is not also served hanging or dangling on the table. It so happened, that those being hung on display are most noticeable than those laid on the counter or table. "Hanging rice" is quite a misnomer for puso. It would better be called as "palm wrapped rice," a rice cooked in woven coconut leaf.

Tamu sold at a Tausug restaurant along Rizal St. in Zamboanga City. The attendant slices it into chunks for the satti.
Pieces of sliced puso served at Dwino's Grill in Ozamiz City in Misamis Occidental province

For more about Pinoy foods, see also my OPEN & FREE food dictionary.

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