Dig In | The Sweet Journey Back to Ube Roots

Halayang Ube or Ube Halaya, a traditional Pilipino dessert. Photo by Jamie Balaoro

Ube–in all of its purple glory–has taken the dessert world by storm, but not many know of ube’s roots in a traditional Pilipino dessert.

Purple donuts, purple cupcakes, purple cheesecakes and more. The tuberous, purple yam known as ube, widely used in Pilipino desserts, has made its mark in mainstream American culture, gaining popularity through its versatility and ability to be seamlessly integrated into desserts that appeal to diverse palates.

Although the use of ube has certainly become more creative these days, ube’s beginnings in a traditional Pilipino dessert staple takes on a much simpler, yet complex form.

Halayang Ube or Ube Halaya, a traditional Pilipino dessert. Photo by Jamie Balaoro
Halayang Ube or Ube Halaya, a traditional Pilipino dessert. Photo by Jamie Balaoro

Halayang Ube (also referred to as Ube Halaya)–which could best be described as a creamy, almost pudding-like jam–is the epitome of simple sophistication. While there are not many ingredients needed in addition to the star ingredient–grated ube–this is far from a no-fuss dessert. The cooking process requires consistent stirring over a period of about one hour in order to achieve Halayang Ube’s smooth and creamy, yet thick texture. Due to this long, tedious cooking process, Halayang Ube is a dessert typically saved for special occasions.

Halayang Ube or Ube Halaya, a traditional Pilipino dessert. Photo by Jamie Balaoro
Halayang Ube or Ube Halaya, a traditional Pilipino dessert. Photo by Jamie Balaoro

What makes Halayang Ube such a dessert staple is that it can be used in many ways, reflecting the versatility of the main ingredient. It can be used as a spread, similar to how chocolate hazelnut spreads are used, or incorporated into other Pilipino desserts. But, much like the understated form it takes, the real treat is that Halayang Ube can stand alone and be enjoyed on its own by the spoonfuls.

Halayang Ube or Ube Halaya, a traditional Pilipino dessert. Photo by Jamie Balaoro
Jamie Balaoro

Photo + Video Maker | Visual Storyteller | DIY-er | Creator of The Golden Bullet Magazine

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