Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ode to the Purple Yam we call Ube!

A few weeks back, I found these wonderful tubers that reminded me of my homeland at a local Asian market.

(L) Fresh roots of Dioscorea alata aka Purple Yam sliced to expose the purple flesh and (R) the cooked yams.

"Ratulu" in India, "khoai mỡ" in Vietname, "Uhi" in Hawaii, "Ube (pronounced OO-beh)" in the Philippines....

Botanically:  Dioscorea alata

This beautiful root crop is a very popular starch in the Philippines and I often craved it as it was the main ingredient in many of my favorite childhood snacks and desserts.

It has a lovely smooth texture, a stunningly beautiful flesh that's deep pink/violet when cut into raw and turns a smokey deep purple and has a wonderfully sweet, starchy flavor that's baked or roasted like a baked potato. It is also made into a sweet paste that's used to flavor cakes, sweet porridge, and added to make the infamous Halo-halo: a super sweet dessert consisting of fresh and preserved tropical fruits topped with shaved ice, ice cream, a dollop of ube, and condensed milk with sugar.

While it's kind of cold to have Halo-halo during the winter, I played around in the kitchen and came up with this pretty concoction integrating a little East/West influence in presentation.

Ube topped with jackfruit and vanilla ice cream garnished with mint and sweet violet blossoms.

A warm weather plant we can't really grow here in the Pacific Northwest, but it's quite vigorous and is actually invasive in parts of the Southeast. It's often a seasonal root vegetable available mostly during the fall and winter months so you don't often see it, but when you do, it's definitely worth trying!



  1. What an artfully concocted ice cream creation.

  2. Very nice website. It makes me want to grow my own ube. Can I ask you where I can obtain some ube plants to start growing? Thank you for your time.

  3. thats not a pic of Dioscorea alata but Ipomea battatas , probably okinawan purple , not botanically related and very different taste
    prettey and tasty , but not the same

  4. Thanks for that correction!! It was pretty confusing as I was told by the vendors it was "Ube" so I just assumed that it was Dioscorea. Maybe most Filipinos think that this Okinawan Purple Yam is ube because they want it to be. Hhahahaha

    I better seek out the true Ube and compare next winter. Most of the "ube" we get is processed in a jar ready to use.

    Thanks again!

  5. I have several ube plants for sale. Feel free to email me at if interested. Thanks

  6. >.< that's not an ube.. ube's skin when washed with water is also color purple. i know coz im growing one. >3< but the one in the picture is also delicious.

  7. This is the correct ube: Dioscorea alata