Any time a particular dish or ingredient has “a moment,” it’s safe to assume it has been popular, perhaps even a staple, for years in a different culture or cuisine. That certainly goes for ube, a purple yam commonly found in Asian desserts. It has been springing up all over menus and Instagram feeds, thanks to its mildly sweet and almost nutty flavor and deep-amethyst color.
Ube plays the perfect role in ice creams, pastries and doughnuts, and its luscious, bright hue makes it an enticingly fun treat. Whether you’ve been eating ube-flavored snacks since you were a kid or you’re just now discovering the amazing diversity of this purple tuber, here are five must-have desserts to try.
1. Coconut Halo-Halo at Cutting Board Filipino Gastropub
Halo-Halo is a traditional dessert in the Philippines consisting of an ever-changing mixture of ingredients: shaved ice, ice cream, evaporated milk, beans, jellies, coconut and fruit. The Cutting Board serves a much-simpler version inside a hollowed coconut, topped with a giant scoop of ube-flavored ice cream. Get your cameras ready. 2131 Rock Springs Drive, 702-233-9828.
2. Ube Velvet Whoopieology at Gelatology
When I think of whoopie pies, I think of the processed marshmallow-filled cakes my mother grew up on and tried to push on me as a child. Gelatology gives those disastrous pies a much-needed makeover, sandwiching smooth and creamy ube gelato between two soft and fluffy ube “velvet” cookie-cakes. The result is nothing like those packaged biohazards, and everything you’d want an ice cream sandwich to be. 7910 S. Rainbow Blvd. #110, 702-914-9144.
3. Ube Cream Doughnut at Crown Bakery
This popular Chinatown bakery has an impressive list of fresh goods, from danishes and doughnuts to mochi and red bean buns, plus lattes, teas and more. But since we’re talking yams, the ube doughnut is a must-try. The cakey bun is lightly fried on the outside and packed with creamy, bright-purple custard, making for a harmonious textural experience. We challenge you to eat just one. 4355 Spring Mountain Road #207, 702-873-9805.
4. Paina Roll at Paina Cafe
Imagine your favorite sponge cake—delicate, fluffy and light, and not too sweet, either. Now imagine that sponge cake is bright purple and filled with flan custard. Known for its popular ono grindz like poke bowls and spam musubi, Paina Cafe also specializes in popular Hawaiian desserts, from cake rolls to cream-filled puffs and tarts. The menu is always changing, so return often. 6870 Spring Mountain Road, 702-272-2790.
5. Ube Hopia at Goldilocks
If you’ve never had hopia, you’re in for a treat. These addictive Filipino pastries are similar to the Indonesian-Chinese sweet roll bakpia, which can be stuffed with everything from mung bean to pork, and of course, our favorite root vegetable, ube. Encased in a buttery, flaky dough, the purple yam filling is subtle and sweet. Goldilocks’ hopia come in packs of five and are delicious on their own or paired with a cup of coffee. 2797 S. Maryland Parkway, 702-368-2253.