We’re eager to discover the new tastes, ingredients, and dining trends that will influence guests’ palates in 2024! In our last post, we talked about how tahini would be used in various ways in the coming year, and in this article, we’ll dive into another trending ingredient you’ll be sure to see making its way into menus—ube. Ube is crowned ‘2024 Flavor of the Year’ according to T. Hasegawa, a top 10 food and beverage manufacturer.
Ube, a beautifully vibrant purple yam native to Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, is renowned for its distinct color and subtly sweet flavor. While thriving in warm, tropical climates and primarily cultivated in countries like the Philippines, Hawaii, and select regions in Africa and South America, ube has transcended borders, becoming a trendy ingredient in many cuisines worldwide. Initially found in specialty or Asian markets, its popularity has surged, making it increasingly accessible in certain Western countries.
Traditional Uses of Ube
Ube is a versatile ingredient in Filipino cuisine, often used in desserts and sometimes in savory dishes. One of the most popular uses is in “ube halaya,” a sweet jam or pudding made from mashed ube, combined with condensed milk, butter, and sometimes coconut milk, resulting in a rich and creamy dessert. Ube is also commonly used in ice cream, giving it a distinctive purple color and a unique, slightly earthy taste. Additionally, it’s used in cakes, pastries, and bread, adding flavor and a striking purple hue to these dishes. Ube can be incorporated into savory cooking, added to dishes like ube-filled buns, or used in certain stews for added color and a subtle sweetness.
We’re Seeing Purple at These Restaurants
Cafe 86, a restaurant chain focusing on the Filipino purple yam, ube, is expanding into Northern California from its Southern California and Las Vegas roots. With its second Bay Area location in Mountain View and a third planned for Daly City, the chain showcases ube prominently in its menu. Ube-based desserts and drinks like ube crinkle cookies, ube truffles, ube butter bars, and ube-flavored beverages are featured, alongside traditional Filipino treats like Halo Halo.
San Francisco’s talk of the town is an $18 ube sourdough loaf by Rize Up, a SoMa-based bakery. The loaf’s viral Reddit post sparked discussions on the city’s high costs, even with 878 comments and nearly 5,000 upvotes. The loaf, praised for elevating ube beyond a mere novelty, flies off shelves despite its hefty price. The Standard’s review finds the bread’s crust akin to an amethyst geode, exuding traditional sourdough aroma and taste with a subtle sweetness and earthiness from the ube. Though divisive in opinion—some adore it while others find the purple hue off-putting—Rize Up’s founder, Azikiwee Anderson, attributes the idea to ube-flavored ice cream and three years of recipe experimentation. Despite its cost, around 200 loaves sell weekly, with the bakery justifying the price by emphasizing the support for their staff and culinary training.
Did we get your culinary wheels spinning yet? Ube can be a great addition to your restaurant menu. The possibilities are endless!