The rise of ube, a pretty, purple yam has long been seen on Instagram. Cue the creative interpretations of various restaurants outside of the Philippines. From New York-based Manila Social Club, to Platito Filipino Soul Food in Toronto, to Cafe 86 in Pasadena, it’s not uncommon to see ube waffles, pop tarts, and even donuts smothered in purple frosting on your feed. Even publications like GQ, Shape Magazine, and the Huffington Post have covered the beloved ingredient.
Is this craze about to unseat matcha’s global popularity? While that can’t be said for sure, it’s a fact that Filipinos have long been snacking and craving ube. It is inextricably linked to the country’s rich culinary history, grown by the natives long before the arrival of the Spaniards. Today however, this food is transformed into everything from ube ice cream to hopia – foods enjoyed at Christmas dinners, fiestas, and as simple everyday fare. Take a look at the sheer variety of ube snacks and desserts Pinoys love below.
1. Ube Halaya or Ube Jam
A favorite delicacy among Filipinos, ube halaya, or ube jam is made from boiled and mashed purple yam combined with condensed milk and butter into a thick mixture. It is often eaten on its own, or used in ice-cold desserts such as halo-halo.
Want to stash jars of these in your fridge? You can cook it from scratch, by buying the ube in any local market – or get the store-bought version at the local food aisle at any big Filipino supermarket.
One renowned variant is the Mountain Maid Ube Jam, made up north at the Good Shepherd Convent in Baguio City. Crafted with only the highest quality butter, milk, and ube sourced from the nearby Benguet and Ilocos provinces, Filipinos will likely mention this beloved brand when asked about ube halaya.
A bestselling flavor from roadside carts to children’s parties, ube ice cream is purple yam with an indulgent dairy twist. Get it scooped at any local mall, or buy it by the tub (whether it’s commercial or artisanal) at the ice cream section of major supermarkets.
Ube puto is a small, spongy rice cake often topped with sliced or grated cheese. It is often served in huge batches during town fiestas, or as pasalubong (souvenirs) given to family members. It is even paired with savoury dishes such as dinuguan (blood stew) and pancit (noodles).
A flaky Filipino-Chinese snack, ube hopia is a addictive fusion of purple yam baked inside a thin, pie crust-like shell. Each bite begs for more, with one’s fingers getting all oily from the pork lard used in most recipes.
One popular ube hopia brand is Eng Bee Tin, a Chinese specialty food store with branches and kiosks found in Manila’s Chinatown, and all over the capital.
Today is an exciting time to discover the country’s culinary landscape, as more are becoming aware of Filipino cuisine. Can ube be an Insta-worthy starting point? Based on the likes and the buzz it receives, it definitely is.