Know your Roots: Ube, the Purple Filipino Yam
July 16, 2019 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Filipino food in general is having a moment in the spotlight (see restaurants Jeepney Filipino Gastropub and Bad Saint in Washington DC. A particular purple tuber that has long been a staple of Filipino desserts is now popping up all over Instagram.

Why? Maybe because it's pretty? Or because it plays so well with the unicorn rainbow trend? It's probably because it's delicious, whether you go traditional and have it in halo halo with its "mix mix" of ingredients or go contemporary and have it in macarons or dessert pancakes.

There are other purple tubers out there so use this handy guide to see what you have. Why is this important? This Youtube video shows a delicious Stephen Universe-inspired Ube Roll...except that's not ube!

If you need tuber-friendly merch, you can find stickers and shirts (no affiliation, I just like their art)
posted by brilliantine (22 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks to PussKillian for helping me shape this into a post!
posted by brilliantine at 5:44 AM on July 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

I actually just rewatched that episode of Steven Universe last night! Is that a sign I should try some of these recipes?
posted by leesh at 5:58 AM on July 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

I've never had it in dessert form, but as the Wikipedia article notes, this kind of yam is cultivated around the world so you encounter it in a lot of places. It's tasty and colorful, always something nice to see on a plate.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:01 AM on July 16, 2019

Purple tuber: not a member of a royal video sharing site.
posted by otherchaz at 6:15 AM on July 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

growing up in the Philippines, I feel like I've only ever had it as a dessert.

Ice cream
Halayang, basically a tuber mousse
Halayang can also be turned into pastilla hand candies.
Polvoron (a grainy condensed milk cookie)
posted by bl1nk at 6:23 AM on July 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hey I just had this in ice cream form. It is indeed delicious. And extremely purple.
posted by q*ben at 6:24 AM on July 16, 2019

I was super excited when my local Korean market had real ube roots and I tried to sub them into a sweet potato pie recipe. It was a total failure but I still hope I can figure out the "rules" of how to use it - since it's available in different forms it's hard to know what the right consistency is for different applications. I brought a polvoron press back with me the last time I visited Manila but haven't had a chance to use it yet.
posted by brilliantine at 6:38 AM on July 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend is from the Philippines, and is a superb cook. I can vouch for the deliciosity of ube in all its forms and functions.
posted by JohnFromGR at 6:39 AM on July 16, 2019

I am super craving polvoron now.
posted by PussKillian at 7:33 AM on July 16, 2019

UBE *hearteyes* The Filipino food scene is still in its infancy in Boston; for most of the two decades I've lived here, the only way to get Filipino food was to drive to the tiny Surepinoy in Quincy. It was honestly easier to hop on a bus to New York. H-Mart started carrying some Filipino ingredients when they came to town a few years back, including the ube powder and ube halaya (and cane vinegar! and toyomansi! and macapuno! and Mama Sita's packets), but the ube ice cream's been the most popular incarnation I've seen around here.

I would be remiss to not note Tanám, recently opened in Somerville. With kamayan dinners every Wednesday! (But I'll know the scene is more firmly established when there's a Jollibee in Downtown Crossing or at least Allston.) In the meantime, one of my first priorities on arriving in the Bay Area in August is going to be to get down to FOB Kitchen, but also to go to Goldilocks and get an ube ensaymada or 12.

(Also HOW did Flip Sigi get those colors so bright for the ube ice cream sandwich.)
posted by Pandora Kouti at 8:05 AM on July 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

A couple of years ago my friend took me to a Filipino restaurant she likes and I had this as a Swiss roll kind of cake with lychees in the cream. It was so good. The cake taste vaguely reminded me of Starbucks pumpkin loaf.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 8:07 AM on July 16, 2019

There's this place called Jonny's Air Mart on Ave A in the East Village which used to be practically the only place you could find ube ice cream (I prefer the ube + coconut combo, as ube itself is not very strongly flavored). I've been pleased to watch it spread through the city.
posted by praemunire at 8:16 AM on July 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

I really want some halo halo with a scoop of ube ice cream right now.
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:32 AM on July 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I haven't had polvoron in years. My favourite is pinipig, but ube is delicious. Dang. I miss Filipino food (used to be married to a Filipino MeFite!). A plate of laing and pork barbecue, please.
posted by wellred at 8:42 AM on July 16, 2019

Pandora Kouti, in Chatham, there's also Mom and Pops burgers, and the "Mom" in the business is from Pampanga, and offers lumpia to go along with their burger food truck. I've asked her if she's open to being more adventurous in the menu and she said that they've talked about bringing in sisig or adobo if there's a demand.

Also big fans of Tanam, and what Ellie's doing. The kamayans are AMAZING and totally deserve a trip. Also as a long time patron of her pop-up venture, Pamangan, I was always a little dismayed to see that most of the patrons were local Filipinos or Fil-Ams and their friends/partners; but I went to a kamayan last week where it was all white or non-Asian minorities and it felt like they've arrived and I'm so there for that.
posted by bl1nk at 9:00 AM on July 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Shout out to the ube cheesecake from Hood Famous in Seattle, well worth grabbing if you find yourself in Ballard or the International District.
posted by Four String Riot at 9:52 AM on July 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

On one hand it is very cute nan cute naman to see that the food my grandparents vainly tried to get me to eat as a child is becoming trendy. On the other hand, I just want one damn place to get my pork adobo and my lumpia without having to badger my mom about it. Atlanta's quite a long way behind LA
posted by Maaik at 10:40 AM on July 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

There’s a growing Filipino presence here in Wellington, too! I’m Filipina and mr. lemon_icing is a Brit. He’s been happily eating my cooking for years, but with growing frequency he suggests the Filipino BBQ place in the food court for lunch. And now with a proper Filipino grocery, it gets easier and easier to make comfort food. UBE!
posted by lemon_icing at 12:28 PM on July 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ahh, one of my all time favorite restaurants is Brooklyn's Purple Yam, plus I am kinda ube obsessed in general. Drop me a Memail if you ever wanna go!
posted by ferret branca at 7:08 PM on July 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

re: Purple Yam, the role of Amy and Romy (the couple who owns Purple Yam, and had run its earlier predecessor, Cendrillon) in establishing modern Filipino-American cooking cannot be overstated. Fifteen years ago, Cendrillon was the first Filipino American restaurant that I ever ate at which tried to move past the "authentic" standards of the home country and try to do something new and innovative. I know that Ellie, of Tanam, apprenticed with Amy for a summer, and the couple has been generous with their advice to other restauranters. They're basically fairy godparents to this entire scene.
posted by bl1nk at 10:06 AM on July 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

They are the best! (and relatives of a friend of mine but I swear I’m not biased :p)
posted by ferret branca at 10:57 AM on July 18, 2019

For my college graduation my parents brought an ube cake to celebrate. Also invited were my now-wife-then-girlfriend's SUPER WASP-Y parents and grandparents. During the cutting and serving of the cake the ube frosting got on EVERYTHING. It was on the bottom of plates, on everyone's forearms, on table legs, smeared on the coffee table, in hair.

My mom has a technique? way? of cutting cake that leaves it unrecognizable, which is I'm sure why the ube got EVERYWHERE, but we all still talk about that day.
posted by photovox at 9:19 PM on July 18, 2019

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