Ube is More Than Just a Trend

3 months ago by Anna Fernandez

Ube (pronounced ooh-beh) is the Tagalog word for “purple yam” and it is ubiquitous in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. It is also a staple in many Filipino desserts — from ice cream and shaved ice to breads and cakes.

Most food experts would say that ube has been growing in popularity over the years, along with the rise of Filipino cuisine in America, led by second-generation Filipino chefs who are setting up shop in spots like Los Angeles, New York, and Washington, D.C. And with the power and reach of social media in a world where people are eating with their eyes and phones, it’s no wonder that the yam with the outlandish deep purple hue is getting traction online.

Charcoal and Ube ice cream at #ihalokrunch! Maaan the long weekend was a bad time to line up for these babies 😂. If you follow my stories you saw that the line was insane!! I couldn't even see the sign from where I was standing at the end. However, the line went fairly fast as they don't do anything fancy at the service counter so it wasn't too bad. The charcoal ice cream is actually coconut flavoured and ube has a sort of floral sweet yam-my taste. The charcoal cone is an extra dollar but I have no regrets 😜. Be careful it melts very fast…do not wear white like I did, it will also stain your lips. I enjoyed the flavours and the price is not bad. My guest rater said he could not taste the ube flavour when mixed with the coconut – the ube is lighter in taste but I was able to distinguish the difference and I thought ube was delicious! . Nom factor – 4/5; my guest rater @kentyhsieh gave it 3/5 Price – $13 for 2 cones after tax Service – 4/5; speedy

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In the Philippines, ube is used to make traditional desserts like ube halaya, an ube jam which can be eaten on its own as a dessert, or incorporated into other recipes, such as baked goods. It uses the boiled and mashed flesh to make a cold set pudding. Another dessert which uses ube is halo-halo, which is made with shaved ice, evaporated milk mixed with sweet beans, jackfruit and topped with ube ice cream. These days, ube is used in everything including donuts, pancakes, and cupcakes.

Most would describe the root vegetable’s flavour as subtly sweet with hints of vanilla, and similar to regular sweet potatoes or pumpkin. Some say it has a slight floral flavour. Often, ube is mixed with coconut, a pleasant combination that’s not too overwhelming.

Not to be confused with other types of root vegetables like taro, ube, like matcha, is an ingredient, not a flavour. Nutritionaly, one cup of ube contains almost 40 grams of carbohydrates (5 of which are dietary fibre), protein (roughly 2 grams per cup), and no fat. And like the more common yams, ube is packed with immune-supporting vitamins A and C, as well as potassium, a mineral that acts as a natural de-bloater, and helps regulate heart function and blood pressure, and prevent muscle cramps.

Generally, yams are already very healthy but because ube yams are purple in colour, they also contain a lot more antioxidants than regular yams. A study published in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry found that purple yams from the Philippines contain the antioxidant, anthocyanin, which has been linked to anti-inflammatory effects, brain health, and protection against heart disease and cancer. These antioxidants may also have some fat-fighting potential.

And so, the staying power of ube remains to be determined but the humble ingredient sure does pack a punch.

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