Adobong puso ng saging is a staple in our Liberty Village household. Why? Because Poch loves it – its vegetarian version, of course – her eyes lighting up every time I tell her of dinner plans that include this simple, oh-so-humble dish. I don’t know anyone else who loves this dish as much as she does. Really, what’s there to love?  Chopped into tiny, unrecognizable bits and stewed in vinegar and soy sauce, it’s the archetype of Filipino cuisine – brown, limp and unattractive.

Puso ng saging – literally, heart of the banana – is, of course, a misnomer. It’s actually the bud, flower or blossom of the banana plant which, by the way, isn’t even a tree. Why it’s called the heart, I can only venture a guess. Maybe because it is shaped like a heart? Maybe, like a heart, its tender part hides beneath so many tough layers? Or because it takes a lot of heart – love, that is – to prepare this deceptively uncomplicated adobo dish? Sappy? Definitely.

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2 banana buds

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup water

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 finger chili

1. In a bowl of water, dissolve about 2 tablespoons of salt. Set aside.

2. Peel the tough red outer layers of the banana hearts until you reach the yellow or pale-colored part. Slice and immediately place the pieces in the salted water. Massage the pieces for 3 minutes to remove the bitter sap. Squeeze dry and discard the water that now looks soapy and brackish. Repeat the process.

3. Place the banana heart pieces in a non-reactive pot (enamelled or stainless steel) or a cazuela. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, the 1/4 cup of water, garlic, pepper. Top with the finger chill. Bring to a boil. When the pot has boiled for about 5 minutes and no longer smells of raw vinegar, stir to combine the flavour. Discard the finger chill. Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for another 5 minutes or until the banana heart pieces are tender.

4. Serve with hot, steamed rice and a siding of diced semi-ripe mango, chopped tomatoes and torn cilantro.

Poch, this bud’s for you…

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