Ube desserts have been popping up everywhere. Perhaps you’ve tried one of these exotic purple yam desserts, or perhaps you’re still wondering what is ube exactly? If you fit into the second category, read on. We’ll not only teach you about it, but we’ll show you where you can find it without a trip to Southeast Asia.
In short, ube is another name for purple yam. That’s right, it comes from a root vegetable (similar to sweet potato, but not quite the same). It is a well established staple among Austronesian cultures, though modern associations commonly link it to Filipino cuisine. This is because the Philippines are where we mostly see it used as an ingredient in drinks, jams, cookies, cakes, pastries, and more.
The purple yam’s taste is a combination of vanilla with the nuttiness of pistachio. Some say that it reminds them of white chocolate, but the flavor is very gentle and not too intense.Thus, it is appropriate to use as an ingredient in multiple desserts.
There are four main types of Filipino desserts, the first being ube halaya. This is made by boiling and mashing the vegetable down with condensed milk. The lavender-coloured concoction is then thickened in a saucepan with butter before it’s served chilled with grated coconut or more condensed milk. Ube halaya is the main ube dessert in the Philippines and actually the base for other desserts like pastries and ice cream.
Both ube halaya and ube ice cream can be used in the best known Filipino dessert, halo halo. It’s no surprise to learn it actually means “mix-mix” when you see the icy and milky combination of mung beans, candied fruits, and jellies. It’s a must if you ever have the opportunity. As is the ube crinkle, or purple yam crinkle. These Filipino cookies are everything you want in a cookie; crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Not to mention bright purple! The parts that show themselves from behind the powdered sugar, that is.
The last dessert type that we’ll look at is the ube cake. This traditional Filipino chiffon cake can be dressed up with cream cheese and buttercream frosting. Often flavoured with coconut, the ube cake comes in a handful of variations, one being the deep purple roll – in a way, the Phillipines’ answer to our buche de noel!
How did we come to have so many ube desserts then? According to Real Simple, New York’s (now closed) Manila Social Club first introduced ube doughnuts in 2016. This spread throughout the US and into parts of Canada. Now we can find ube doughnuts, ice creams, puddings, and cakes all over the place. For violet-coloured dessert options, look here to see what’s available near you.
Special mention to all the Filipino bakeries in Canada, like Edmonton’s Yelo’d, Burnaby’s Goldilocks bakeshop and Montreal’s Pinoy Pansitan. They absolutely dominate the ube desserts scene with ice creams and baked options like their Filipino Rocky Road containing ube marshmallows and their Ube Nanaimo Bilog with an ube custard filling and coconut crust. They even sell ube cookie dough. YAM!