Tuslob Buwa: A Bubble Bath of BrainsJanuary 11, 2020
- Nico GocoWords
I’ve been in and out of Cebu since last year for work. So far, I’ve gained plenty of friends, a lot of experience, and more weight than I would have liked. The place is packed with good food, and pork seems to be the favorite in the city. Lechon is available at every corner, baby back ribs are a specialty in almost all restaurants, and there’s chorizo de Cebu grilling in every street.
It isn’t a surprise for Cebuanos to make good use of every part of the pig. Just like they do back home, Cebu has dishes that utilize everything found in between the snout and the tip of the tail. One such dish that my friends kept telling me to try was tuslob buwa. The star of the dish? Pig brains. Now I’m no stranger to pig brains as an ingredient in Filipino dishes, but what made tuslob buwa interesting was that the brains were the highlight, and not just an additive.
I visited Barangay Pasil in downtown Cebu, said to be where tuslob buwa was born. There, I found myself joining several students who were having the brains for an afternoon snack. Tuslob buwa, I would learn, was a thick soup made of pork brains, lard, broth, and liver. Everything was added to sautéed garlic and onions, and seasoned with soy sauce. The whole lot is cooked in a pan, and thickened to a boil. To enjoy the stew, you’d take puso (rice wrapped and cooked in coconut leaves) and dip it in the brains, letting the rice absorb all the flavors. This act of dipping the rice into the bubbling soup is also where the dish gets its name, as tuslob buwa means “to dip in bubbles.”
It’s also one of the cheapest meals you can eat, as you only pay for the rice you’ll eat. Ten pesos gets you three puso and you can dip all you want. Double dipping is also a standard practice, as the boiling soup should get rid of any bacteria.
The whole experience would probably remind you of all those times you’d have the lunch lady spoon ulam sauce all over your rice, instead of actually buying a viand. You’d get all the flavors of the meat, without having to shell out money for the actual dish. Tuslob buwa is full of pork flavor, so much so that I found myself a bit dizzy after eating it. A bottle of coke, however, chased that feeling away.
For those who’d like to try their hand at making the dish themselves, you can head on over to Azul at Gorordo Street in the city. For PHP 120, you get all the ingredients, 12 pieces of rice, and your own burner and wok to cook in. This option is great for a group who’d want the experience to be a bit more private, as well as enjoying the brains together with several beers.
It probably won’t do wonders for your health if you eat tuslob buwa on a daily basis. But for those who are looking for a quick and tasty source of energy, the combo of rice and tasty, bubbly brain broth is one that will fill you up for only a few pesos. Just make sure to mind your hands, lest they become part of the stew.