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What is UBE?

By Daniel Aquino

Ube (pronounced ooo-beh), also known as sweet purple yam or purple sweet potato, is a starchy root vegetable that is native to the Philippines. It belongs to the same family as sweet potatoes and yams, but has a deep purple color and a more creamy and slightly sweet nutty taste with hints of vanilla. The vibrant purple color of ube is due to the presence of antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have been linked to a number of health benefits. Ube has long been a staple in Filipino cuisine for many centuries, where it is used to make a variety of dishes, including ice cream, cakes, pastries, and a staple household item like ube halaya, a spread made with mashed ube, pandan, and coconut milk. Ube can be found frozen in Asian markets, or it can be purchased in the form of ube extract, ube powder, or ube flavoring. Ube currently does not grow on US soil.

Ube has gained a lot of popularity in America in recent years, with ube-flavored treats and products popping up in bakeries, ice cream shops, big box stores, and even other coffee shops. This popularity can be attributed to the rise of Filipino food in the mainstream, as well as the trendiness of all things purple and Instagram-worthy. The general increase in the diversity of the American population and the growing interest in international cuisines has contributed to the surge of its popularity. Many people in the United States have become more interested in exploring the foods and flavors of different cultures, and ube has been embraced as one of those new and interesting ingredients.

But ube is more than just a trendy flavor or a pretty color – it has a rich history and cultural significance in the Philippines. In fact, ube has been a staple food in the country for so many centuries, and it is often used in traditional dishes served during special occasions like weddings, birthdays, ceremonies, and festivals.

So, what can you do with ube? Here are just 10 ways (among so many ways) to incorporate this delicious and versatile ingredient into your cooking:

  1. Make ube ice cream: This is probably the most well-known way to enjoy ube, and for a good reason. The creamy, slightly sweet flavor of ube pairs perfectly with the richness of ice cream, and the vibrant purple color is sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike.

  2. Bake ube pastries: Ube can be used to add flavor and color to a variety of pastries, such as ube cupcakes, ube muffins, and ube doughnuts. At Coffee Lab, we often fill traditional milk bread buns and bao with sweet ube jam and ube fillings.

  3. Add ube to your smoothies: Ube adds a unique twist to your favorite smoothie recipes – just add some frozen ube chunks or ube powder to your smoothie base for a burst of flavor and color.

  4. Make ube halaya/nilupak: This traditional Filipino spread is made by cooking mashed ube with coconut milk and sugar until it becomes thick and creamy. It can be served on its own as a dessert, or used as a topping for pancakes or waffles.

  5. Use ube in savory dishes: Ube doesn't have to be reserved for sweets – it can also be used to add color and flavor to savory dishes like ube-flavored rice or ube-stuffed chicken breasts.

  6. Make ube bread: Add some mashed ube to your bread dough for a unique twist on a classic recipe.

  7. Use ube to make ube cheese rolls: These Filipino pastries are made by rolling ube-flavored cream cheese inside a soft, fluffy bread dough and baking until golden brown.

  8. Add ube to your milkshakes: Ube milkshakes are a popular treat in the Philippines – just blend ube ice cream with milk and a few ice cubes for a delicious and refreshing drink.

  9. Use ube to make ube crinkle cookies: These cookies are made with a soft and chewy ube-flavored dough that is rolled in powdered sugar before baking, resulting in a cracked and crinkly surface.

  10. Use ube in your frosting: Add some ube extract or ube powder with a few drops of coconut syrup and vanilla to your frosting.

  11. Make Coffee Lab's ever so popular Ube Coconut Latte: Recipe is a secret!

So, if you're curious about Ube, you're lucky, because Coffee Lab Evanston carries authentic ube delights!

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