What’s in Filipino Food – Ube

Barbara F. Watson

Purple yams, officially referred to as ubes, are a common ingredient in Filipino kitchens. These yams are actually violet in color and are used in all different types of recipes. They have even been known to make a pleasant looking violet-colored cake.

Many yam aficionados will tell you that true Filipino ubes have a darker skin than the purple yams, referred to as such, which are available in the United States.

Yams are not potatoes and should not be confused with purple Peruvian potatoes that are available, at some grocery stores and farm stands.

One of the most common Filipino ube recipes is Halayang Ube or purple yam jam. This is made from powdered ube, milk, condensed milk, egg yolks and butter.

Ube Balls are common, as well. This dish consists of condensed milk, mashed ube, cornstarch and water. The condensed milk and ube are heated over low heat, until somewhat warm.

At that point, cornstarch and violet food coloring is added. Continue cooking until mixture thickens. Stir constantly. Mixture is ready to cool, when it separates from the pan.

Once ube mixture has completely cooled, shape into small balls. Roll in sugar and tightly wrap in plastic wrap, to store.

Other uses for ube yams in Filipino food is as an ingredient in cakes, cupcakes and the beverage Halo-Halo.

Filipino food is highly regarded an exotic cuisine in many parts of the world and the ube yam is one of the ingredients that sets Filipino food apart from other cuisines of the region.

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