Food in The Philippines: Ube (strange, purple, popular!)

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ July 23rd, 2010. Updated on July 16th, 2012. Published in: Travel blog » Food around the world » Filipino food.
Ube Ice Cream from The Philippines

Purple Ube Ice Cream! (click to enlarge)

Ube ice cream in The Philippines

There are many multicolored food stuff’s in The Philippines. In fact, the nation seems to have no regard for the dangers of artificial colorings and additives whatsoever.

However, there is one natural color that keeps popping up everywhere. Including in food. And, that’s the color purple. Most of this comes from Ube. Ube ice cream is found all over The Philippines and is really quite good.

What is Ube?

Ube is actually a purple yam, or  tuber which has streaks of violet / purple running through it.

This natural food is often cooked, smashed and made into many into many different products. Ice cream, cakes, breads, pies can all be Ube flavored. Which in turn, makes them all a bright purple!

The ube yam itself is large, and looks a lot like any yam. But on close inspection you will see some purple hinting on the outside. Cut it open and it’s got more streaks of purple.

What does Ube taste like?

When cooked, it’s no different to any other yam in taste.

When made into an ice cream, it comes out bright purple and tasting … well … like a yam too!

A strange taste that takes a while to comprehend. It’s not overly sweet, and it’s not often you’ll come across yam or potato flavored ice cream.

But, it’s good!

I’ve tasted various Ube flavored food stuffs. None, come close to Ube ice cream. It’s unique to say the least.

Check out this 5 photograph selection of Ube!

(after play, click lower right toolbar above for full screen version – Email/RSS subscribers please go to the live travel blog post to see the video)

Ice cream in the Philippines

And, it’s well needed. Ice cream in The Philippines is a terrible disappointment considering the hot climate. Most of the ice cream comes from generic brands like Nestle, and are packed with sugar and artificial everything.

I don’t know if Ube ice cream also has a lot of colorant in it. I hope not. I know the Nestle one does. But for local versions I am hoping it’s all Ube, but have my doubts and think they add purple to it.

On the streets you can often find local homemade ice cream. Usually frozen ice (not the same), with Durian and chocolate flavors being the most popular. Again, not so good as to be called real ice cream.

What is the best ice cream in the Philippines?

The one saving grace for ice cream in the Philippines is Ube. I’ve seen the locally made version and the generic Nestle version. The local one wins. It’s got a real natural taste to it, and is thick and creamy.

So if you ever find yourself in the Philippines, and see a purple container of ice cream, give it a go! It’ll be different, but strangely good!

This is an additional post and one of a series highlighting Filipino food

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25 Great responses to Food in The Philippines: Ube (strange, purple, popular!)

  1. ciki says:

    because popeye he say.. I yam what i yam:p

    We love this ice-cream in KL because it is not just sweet, but slightly salty. totally delectable on a hawt hawt day!!

    happy #followfriday dahlink;)

  2. Tim says:

    Ube ice cream is an absolute requirement in Halo Halo!

  3. Your ube ice cream pales in comparison to all the strange flavors available here in Guatemala. We’ve had (I am not kidding) avocado ice cream, carrot ice cream, beer ice cream, tomato ice cream and no, none of my friends, my child nor I had the guts to try the fish ice cream.. (I kid you not) The ube ice cream sounds amazing compared to that. ;)

    Oh, forgot to mention. Best Avocado shake in the world can be had in Morocco! Just in case you guys find yourselves there!

    • Ube ice cream is, shall we say the best of a bad bunch. They have avocado shakes here, they are alright. But no great. Carrot, beet, tomato … and fish ice cream … I’ll let you keep some of those over there :)

  4. Barbara says:

    Ube’s good, but another local flavor that sounds bad but is really good is sweet corn. Have you tried that?

    • Now there’s one I forgot about. I’ve seen it, and tasted it a long time ago. I think, it was up in Sagada. Not seen it around here though. But, I’ll keep an eye out thanks!

  5. Marnie Alvez says:

    A must-try for you is the Ube jam in Baguio =) best ones are those made by the Good Shepherd Sisters. Really rich and creamy! No preservatives and must be consumed in less than a week. I can consume 1 medium size bottle in one sitting if I don’t restrain myself haha.

    Oh for me the best ice cream in the Philippines is Mango flavor!

    • I’m not surprised they make an ube jam! Good to know its preservative free! Hard thing to get around here.

      Mango … hmmmm. I’ve tasted the Mango “ice” as in water ice, not seen any local “ice cream” versions though. I’ll keep an eye out the next time I see an ice cream man!

  6. Janet says:

    i looove anything ube! Mango used to be my favorite ice cream here but it’s definitely changed to ube. I also love avocado ice cream (mentioned fr a commenter above) but I don’t really see it around here.. I’ve only had it in the states when I buy from oriental food stores :P

  7. I’M a chocolate lover, but I’d trade it for ube ice cream some days. Love the flavor, but there are some over-sweetened ones that seems to totally remove the distinctive ube flavor. Selecta, when it was still in the hands of the Arces, used to have the best ube ice cream. Now, it’s hard to find a good one, I guess, but I’m sure there are some emerging small brands out there – Filipinos just can’t do without ube ice cream.

  8. Kay says:

    General rule of thumb in the Philippines — if it’s mass produced and commercialized, they usually cheat with the ingredients in order to keep costs down. A lot of Filipinos would rather sacrifice good quality than pay higher prices.
    For good local brands that have ube and other tropical flavors like avocado and mango, try Arce Dairy (comes in a gold can, ube has a lighter color than usual) or Fruits in Ice Cream (F.I.C.) it’s a bit more upscale (but by no means posh!) than Selecta or Nestle, but they’re all available in major supermarkets

    • Thanks Kay. It’s good to know there are some non artificial brands of Ube ice cream out there. I still like the local ice cream man’s homemade version. Not sure what’s in there. But I am tasting a distinctly yam like taste. Something the commercial brands don’t seem to have!

  9. ervin says:

    when avocado is in season, some of the ice cream vendors peddling in manila will have avocado flavored ice cream. Arce avocado ice cream is a must try though. it is rich and creamy. it is available in supermarkets.

    • I’ve yet to see this! Even many of the avocado milkshakes have frozen avocado rather than fresh. I’ve seen fresh Buko ice cream, Ube and Durian, but not avocado. It might also be a regional thing.

  10. shirley says:

    I like ice cream too, that ice cream looks yummy, My Philippine maid said ice cream in the Philippines is better than HK’s I always think she is so Patriotic,My mom is Thai, she said the ice cream in south east Asia is good because they demand more ice cream,the weather is hot in southeast Asia, therefore people in there love ice cream and it’s taste better, it is the fact.thank you.

  11. Kendo says:

    Top tip. If you’re comming to stay, bring an ice-cream maker. Bring a bread maker, too.

    K

  12. Cha says:

    You should have tried the ube jam from Baguio, that produced by Good Shepherd. The best!

  13. Lisa says:

    I grew up in the Philippines and this was a popular afternoon treat along with halo, halo and pandasal.

    It is a yummy treat and purple is my favorite color!

  14. Dr. Dave says:

    Ube Ice Cream will always hold a special place in my heart as I met my wife over ube ice cream.

    The short version: I was in an ice cream store in Cebu Philippines. As I was scanning the various flavors I noticed a purple colored one.

    Its sign said it was called “UBE.” Although I thought I was only thinking this I actually said it so all could hear… “What the heck is You-Bee?” Oops…

    Lucy was a customer in line ahead of me. She spun around and said, “It is not You-Bee it is Ube (oo-bay) and it is a root crop.” I bought her ice cream and five years later married her. :-)

  15. Lexis says:

    I know this is an old post but I had to comment, Ube is also very popular in Okinawa, Japan. Where I was in 2008 I loved Ube Ice cream, Ube pies, Ube filled puffs I ate Ube from everywhere I could find on the Island! My local Asian market had Ube and I make a kickin’ Ube pie for the holidays. I might try to make Ube Ice Cream this summer.