There’s A Natural Way To Turn Your Food Bright Purple

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When it comes to “eating the rainbow” (aka, a simple way to remember to eat a bunch of different fruits and vegetables for optimum health), we’ve got most of the colors covered. Red apples, orange apricots, yellow squash, green asparagus and so on. That is, until you get to the whole “BIV” section of the Roy G. Biv spectrum of the rainbow. In other words, outside of an eggplant’s deep-hued skin, you don’t see many purple fruits or vegetables.

But have you ever heard of “ube”? It’s a Tagalog word (pronounced “ooh-beh”) for “purple yam.” These yams look kind of gray on the outside, but they are bright purple on the inside.

Ube is a hit in many Asian countries, especially in the Philippines. According to the Huffington Post, “The yam tastes, well, like a yam—pleasantly sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. Some say it has an almost floral flavor. It pairs perfectly with the taste of coconut, which is why so many Filipino desserts are a combination of ube and macapuno (the abnormally soft flesh of mutant coconuts).”

Mutant coconuts?

Anyway. Look for the ube root (not to be mistaken for a taro root or Okinawan sweet potato—HuffPo says ube has a distinctive flavor all its own) at a Filipino or Asian market. And if you can’t find it there, purple yam jam, powder or extract are also great ways to experience ube’s color and flavor. (Amazon has quite a selection.)

Some of the things you can make with ube look terrific. The above photo is called ube kalamay—a purple rice cake.

And this crazy-awesome-looking drink below is called a haluhalo: “Shaved ice soaked in condensed milk and topped with a combination of syrups, ube halaya, flan, fruit, jellies and sweet red bean.” Just a simple little drink, right?

After your shaved ice, try one of these “Ube Baes” donuts from the Manila Social Club restaurant in Brooklyn on for size.

“Every Friday we make 40 dozen ube donuts, and they all sell out,” Manila Social Club chef Björn DelaCruz told GQ. “People come back, and there is a three-week waiting period.”

There are a lot (and I do mean a lot) of ube recipes on YouTube.

Maybe some ube ice cream? Sure thing:

Homemade ube jam? Right here:

Why not try ube next time you need to inject a little color into your menu?

Photo by oh sk