Finally having lost my “balut” virginity two years ago, having survived street cart preparations of highly dubious sanitation standards across China and long having heard of the ultimate “value-meal” institution of Tuslob-Buwa’, I was determined to up my local street food experience with my return to The Island.
Tuslob-Buwa’, directly translated from Visayan, means “dip in bubbles”. Ambulant food vendors operating standalone, mostly standing-only open-wok eateries set up in bus and jeepney terminal yards and in alleys downtown, cooking up a storm of Pinoy fried-favorites such as “ginabot”, “tungol” & other animal entrails as well as “ngohiong”, “lumpia”, “bola-bola”, etc. Those of limited means or just caught short on daily allowances would still converge at these joints, purchasing only “puso’ “–rice steamed in diamond-shaped, woven coconut leaf pouches, and dipping(tuslob) these in the bubbling oil(buwa’) flavored by the fried items. Full-flavor, literally “enriched”, at an even lower cost!
After several previously failed attempts to locate one of these operations, an Instagam tag directed us to a convenient uptown location along Gorordo Avenue. Fairly excited, the ever-supportive PussyKat agreed to go with me for brunch.
We arrived at the relatively nondescript Azul, a convenience store-cum-restobar, at the far corner of a tiny strip mall next to InkIan Tattoo Shop. The pothead (as he proudly declared on his shirt) manning the counter greeted us with a pushback saying their “puso” ” supply for the day is already an hour late and he cannot give us a definite time for its arrival. Having already set our sights on gorging ourselves on that deadly combination of fats and carbs we decided to wait. Almost an hour later and with nary an update from today’s antagonist, I decided to scour the neighboring eateries for “puso’.” Scoring some I returned to have our setup served.
A single-burner gas stove was set on the table with a small double-handled wok. A bowl “Soup of Sam-Yang-Gai” ( I got the reference to the old joke but “ets ae secrete”, the pothead said) was served with individual saucers of “atay”(liver pate’), “hibe”(a small variety of shrimp), “sibuyas”(chopped onions), “sili”(dried chilis) and squeeze bottles of cooking oil and soy sauce. All those with twelve “puso’s” inclusive in the set for an amazingly low, low price of only PHP 99.00.
We sautéed the everything before dousing it with the “soup”. Our side orders of ngohiong and deep-fried chicken skin arrived shortly. Peeled the coconut leaf-wrapping off the “puso”, dipped the rice in the “buwa’ ” then reeled in the salty., greasy goodness. The ngohiong, a local spring roll filled with vegetables and bamboo shoots, went well with its accompanying ketchup-soy sauce mix but tasted even better dipped into the “buwa”. Here’s a tip: dip and drag the rice or ngohiong up the sides of the wok to pick up as much of the liver-shrimp-onion combo. To make up for this indulgence we washed it all down with sugar-free iced tea.
Having had too much “puso’ to eat from our outside order and still having more from the late-arriving inclusions, we gave out the rest to the neighboring table of students also thoroughly enjoying the novelty. Tuslob-buwa makes for a great communal meal and I would definitely love to go back with a bigger group. Takers, you know how to contact me. 😉
Azul is located at Taft Property Ventures Bldg., Gorordo Ave., Brgy Kamputhaw, Lahug, Cebu City 6000. Tuslob-buwa is available from 10AM daily till supplies last.