What is Ube? The 'veri peri' purple yam

What is Ube? The 'veri peri' purple yam

As little as six months ago, most of us hadn’t ever heard of this magical root vegetable ‘ube’ (pronounced oo-beh). Today, thanks to the rising trend in Filipino food and the Pantone colour of the year, a purple-esque "veri peri", recipes featuring this vibrant, deeply coloured purple yam are popping up all over the place. You’ll find it featured on traditional Filipino menus featuring ube jam and the like, to more contemporary twists such as ube infused biscuits, macarons and more.

Ube may be trending around the world in all different applications, yet that doesn’t change its roots (pardon the pun) as the base of the most loved, simple and traditional of Filipino sweet treats, Ube jam.

Thermomix® Consultant, Fides Tangarorang, says “Back in The Phillipines, someone would come and give us baskets of ube from their farm. We would prep it and cook ube jam to share with the neighbours.” Ube jam is still how Fides most loves eating it today.

Fides’ childhood memories are of her making the jam the conventional way, standing tirelessly over the stove, stirring constantly to avoid lumps and burning. Today, she can make it seamlessly in Thermomix®, letting it do the stirring then blending of her ube jam for her.

John Rivera, the chef behind Melbourne’s Kariton Sorbetes – one of the forerunners in making ube an ice cream flavour to hanker for and a contributor to our collection, Filipino Flavours – also loves the Ube jam.

“Rich and fudgey, this recipe is great spread on bread or, even better, added to your ube ice cream to take it to the next level!”

So, you curious yet? Let’s take a closer look at this violet-coloured ingredient and the incredible new Thermomix® recipes using it in our Filipino Flavours collection on Cookidoo®, which mean you can easily create these trending dishes at home.

What is ube?

A purple yam native to The Philippines, ube has a slightly sweet, earthy taste and a naturally more-ish quality. Very hard to find fresh in Australia and New Zealand, the flesh when raw is whiter in appearance but takes on a deep purple as it cooks. It’s a staple of Filipino food, used mostly in sweets such as Ube jam as mentioned, as well as Ube ice cream, breads, biscuits, cakes and Ube pie, to name just a few. If you do manage to find it fresh, be sure to always fully cook ube before consuming it as it can be quite toxic when raw.

ube purple sweet potato

Where do you buy ube?

This can be the trickiest part. But luckily, there are options! Be mindful to always cook ube before eating, as raw ube may contain toxins.

Ube flavour, ube extract or ube essence

Available online and in some Asian grocers and with different names (sometimes ‘flavour extract’, sometimes ‘colour’). It’s great for dishes like Ube ice cream and for bringing a deeper purple hue to recipes. Try it to colour our Pan de sal purple or even your next birthday cake! Be mindful that it is rich in flavour, so a little goes a long way.

Frozen ube pieces or grated ube

Available online and in some Asian grocers, this is ideal for making Ube jam. Simply defrost and use as directed in the Ube Halaya jam recipe.

frozen ube packets

Ube powder

This is another great option for adding that signature ube colour and flavour to recipes. Available online and in specialty Asian stores, this is dehydrated and pulverized ube which needs to be hydrated before using (i.e. mixed into a liquid, such as condensed milk). It then thickens on standing and provides density to recipes it’s used in. We used this in our Ube nut pie recipe.

ube powder packets

Why try ube?

Other than the fact it’s a totally natural way of colouring food purple, ube comes with a fair few nutritional benefits too. Like all naturally purple foods, it’s high in antioxidants which help combat free radicals in the body (caused by stress and other factors). It’s also a great source of vitamin C, potassium and resistant starch.

Please note: Always cook ube before consuming, as raw, it may contain toxins which could be harmful.

Is it the same as taro root?

In a word, no. Taro root is also native to Southeast Asia but it is a different vegetable to ube. While taro root can be lavender in colour (they generally range from white-ish grey to lavender), they never achieve that deep purple hue of ube.

Want more Filipino flavours?

Have a sneak peak at some of our favourite Filipino recipes that will get your taste buds UBE-r excited:

Check out our blog The Thermomix® guide to Filipino food to take a culinary adventure through The Philippines then head to Cookidoo® to get cooking.

Filipino Flavours cookbook cover