For Filipinos, ube isn’t that big of a deal. Yes, we crave for it, both the sweet kind from Baguio and the more unrefined kind with bits and pieces, but we have grown up with the purple yam paste with the distinct Grimace color. Americans are slowly discovering the sweet potato, and GQ magazine even declared that it is invading the dessert world.
In the article dated June 29, GQ says, “It’s purple, subtle, and a staple at Filipino potlucks. And now it’s starting to stake a claim for itself here in the U.S. For the uninitiated, ube (pronounced OO-BAE) is a purple yam/sweet potato that is common in the Philippines and other Asian countries, and is on every Titas’s dessert table. Chefs have long been using ube powder and jam in their baked goods, but now a few are drawing direct inspiration from the original source material.”
the magazine interviews Björn Dela Cruz of the Manila Social Club in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Dela Cruz says, “There aren’t tons of purple foods, and this color is so intense and deep. It is something people really like. It’s striking. When you cut ube open, you see a color you can kinda get lost in. It’s natural marketing.”
He is responsible for the Golden Cristal donut, a $1,000-a-dozen (roughly P43,000) donut mixed with ube mousse and Cristal champagne, and drizzled with gold flakes. The Manila Social Club also sells standard ube donuts, which has a three-week waiting period. Dela Cruz adds that they bake 40 dozens of the donut every Friday, and it always sells out.
It turns out that MSC isn’t the only restaurant making ube-flavored desserts. There’s Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese Food and Sam Mason of OddFellows Ice Cream Co. who made an ube ice cream sandwich, Jeepney and Maharlika in New York who sells ube cheesecake, and Rowie’s Bakery in Chicago. The article notes that there are “hipster-inflected varieties of cookies, ice cream, and other bakery standbys.”
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