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What Is Ube?

What the Hell Is Ube, and Why Are You Seeing It Everywhere?

Ube, pronounced oo-bae, originated in the Philippines and refers to bright purple sweet potato that is traditionally boiled and mashed with condensed milk and butter to form essentially dessert mashed potatoes. Well, to be more accurate, the mixture is molded and chilled to create a stunning pudding called ube halaya. Ube, in a short period, has become the base flavor for artisanal desserts around the states, from ice cream to Pop-Tarts, to doughnuts. Its creamy consistency, subtly sweet flavor, and vibrant hue make it easy to love by almost all who try it.

In recent years, Americans have clamored to try the next Asian dessert to go viral on our Instagram feeds, including boba tea, bubble egg cones, or rolled ice cream. These Far East treats allow us to romantically travel around a world just by entering a neighborhood bakery, to discover something foreign, safely (as sugar and cream are usually guaranteed to taste delicious and poses no threat to our tastebuds). Ube in particular, unlike matcha or durian with intense scents and flavors, doesn't require a developed palate to enjoy. Most of us grew up eating sweet potatoes and this new dessert flavor packages up a recognizable flavor in a new way.

To taste a bite of ube, look for the ube tarts at Mr. Holmes Bakeshop in SF or LA, ube soft serve at Soft Swerve NYC, or ube doughnuts out of Manila Social Club in Brooklyn. If you're game to cook ube at home, here's an ube jam recipe, which calls for purple yams (often found at natural food markets).

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