July 10, 2013

purple food ~ ube and purple potatoes

For those of us who grew up in the Philippines, there's nothing surprising about cooking and eating purple-colored food. It's a part of our culture and everyday life. The main source and ingredient we use is a root crop called ube (purple yam). Many popular Filipino desserts and snacks are also filled or mixed with it. However, ube is now finding its way to savory dishes and bread, thanks to the creativity of some Filipino chefs. The first thing which comes to my mind when I think of ube is a dessert called halayang ube. It's made from grated fresh ube mixed with either coconut milk or evaporated milk and sugar. My preference is coconut milk, the way my mother used to make it. In Pateros, where she was from, it's traditional to serve halayang ube at fiesta time. I still have no idea how this came about, but it was also traditional to serve the ube in the shape of a fish with white icing outlining the scales and other details, as shown below.

I have fond memories of fish shaped ube halaya
sweet combination ~ ube halaya served with macapuno strings
I brought back a box of powdered ube from my visit to the Philippines two years ago (shown below). The ube powder had to be rehydrated, either by soaking in water or simmering over low heat, before using.

Being so accustomed to purple food in the Philippines, I was thrilled when we got some purple potatoes in our produce box last week. They reminded me of ube although color is the only similarity. As for the taste, it's very much like a regular potato. Instead of roasting them in the oven, I tried a recipe idea from Cook's Illustrated. The potatoes were simmered in water over medium heat with butter, garlic, thyme or rosemary until almost tender. The objective is to let the water evaporate then continue to cook the potatoes in the butter until toasted. Mash the garlic with lemon juice and sprinkle on the potatoes just before serving. Season with salt and pepper.

stunning purple color
the purple color faded a bit after cooking

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