Treat from the Philippines: Ube Jam

It must’ve been five years ago since I last tasted ube jam.

It was one of my very favorite treats growing up. I adore the bright purple color. The creamy texture. The sweet, comforting flavor. Ube jam – also called halaya – is made from the purple yam, which is cultivated in tropical countries like the Philippines. It is a common ingredient in desserts and it is, like so many other things, my taste of home.

I always remember my Lola (Grandma) Conch, who made the best – THE BEST – halaya I have ever had. She had a wonderful labor-intensive recipe for rich and creamy halaya. I would wait impatiently for hours as she prepped and cooked, and as soon as the jam is ready, still hot from the oven, and oozing with bright yellow mantequilla (butter), I would happily lap it up, savoring each thick, sweet spoonful.

My dad, well aware of my inclinations for all things sweet, brought me a treat when he arrived in Boston last week: a jar of my beloved ube jam. I like eating the ube jam plain and straight from the jar but this time, I wanted to make something a little more special with it. Inspired by the Ube Pies from Jun’s blog (Jun Belen has a beautiful blog filled with heart-warming stories and recipes for Filipino food. I urge you to check it out!) I decided to make mini ube cups with a simple graham cracker base.

a basic graham cracker crust from Martha Stewart calls for only crushed graham crackers, butter, sugar, and a teeny pinch of salt

I baked the crusts in little ramekins for a few minutes until it turned golden brown, then put a generous dollop of ube jam on top. Traditionally, ube jam is served with macapuno – a type of thick, shredded coconut meat cooked to a sweet, syrupy consistency…

but since I didn't have macapuno, I topped my ube pies with sweetened coconut flakes

the graham cracker base was a little crumbly, mixing deliciously with the dense deep-lavender jam

It tasted like an Americanized version of one of my favorite Filipino dessert, bridging my two homes with each bite.

It was perfect. Like no time has passed, I licked each spoonful clean.

You can make ube jam by mixing pureed purple yam (if you can find it, or just use purple sweet potatoes which are more common), some butter, condensed milk, and coconut milk. My Lola Conch has sadly passed away many years ago so I don’t have our family recipe, but you can find recipes online, like in Jun’s blog.

Five years may have gone by but my love for this sweet purple dessert hasn’t faded. My next project is to one day make ube jam myself!

Do you also have a particular dessert that you haven’t had in years?


27 Responses to “Treat from the Philippines: Ube Jam”

  1. #
    Megan posted September 14, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    It sounds so interesting, and I love how you turned it into an adorable, mini dessert.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted September 15, 2011 at 9:42 am

      Thank you birthday girl! You and I and our love for mini desserts :)

  2. #
    Jun Belen posted September 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    What a lovely post, Bianca. Cheers to Lola Conch and her ube halaya!

    Love how you used graham cracker crust and coconut flakes. Macapuno is so difficult to make from scratch and I end up settling for grated fresh young coconut, which isn’t at all bad. But there’s something in ube with macapuno that makes them a perfect combination. Maybe the overload of sugar or the memories of home.

    By the way, thank you so much for the shoutout to my blog! Hope all is well with you.

  3. #
    Nicole@HeatOvenTo350 posted September 14, 2011 at 10:52 pm

    How cool! I’ve never heard of ube jam before but now I really want to try it. The color is so beautiful!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted September 15, 2011 at 9:43 am

      Thanks Nicole. Yes, the violet color is gorgeous!

  4. #
    Michelle posted September 15, 2011 at 7:46 am

    I love learning more about your culture from your blog. I’ve never her of ube jam but it looks AWESOME!

  5. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted September 15, 2011 at 8:12 am

    I love all your Philippines-inspired dishes. This is so unique!

  6. #
    Meghan@travelwinedine posted September 15, 2011 at 8:16 am

    What a beautiful color!

  7. #
    Elizabeth posted September 15, 2011 at 9:12 am

    This looks so cool. I love when you share Filipino specialties.

  8. #
    Erica @ In and Around Town posted September 15, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Love the color of that dessert! Such a great sounding flavor. I actually just made cookies from my family that I had not had in forever, so much fun!

  9. #
    shannon posted September 15, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    wow, so intriguing, it sounds wonderful! and great color, too :)

  10. #
    Michelle Collins posted September 15, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I love the color of that jam! Growing up, I loved chocolate cream pies from this bakery up the street. It’s still open, but I haven’t been there in years!

  11. #
    Maris (in Good taste) posted September 15, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    These are so colorful and tempting. I would love to try this.

  12. #
    Sonia posted September 15, 2011 at 9:01 pm

    hi there,

    This one seems to be a wonderful post. thanks !

  13. #
    Hannah posted September 16, 2011 at 12:30 am

    OHHHH! Magnificent! I have such a deep love for Asian-style desserts. Anything black sesame, red bean, matcha, taro flavoured goes straight to my soul, so I know I’d love this :)

  14. #
    Jon @ sweet giraffe posted September 16, 2011 at 12:37 am

    OMG! I love ube!! I’ve been searching for it in LA, but only found the powdered version. This looks so yummy ;)

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted September 16, 2011 at 9:37 am

      Hi Jon, I didn’t even know there was a powdered version up until recently!

  15. #
    Leng posted September 16, 2011 at 6:35 am

    Yum! Now I’m craving for ube and maja blanca! – time to hit the Filo shops here. Will try your recipe with digestive biccies =)
    Hope all’s well! =)

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted September 16, 2011 at 9:43 am

      Hi Leng, thank you so much for dropping by my blog and the comment! Hope all is well with you too :)

  16. #
    Joanne posted September 16, 2011 at 8:16 am

    What I wouldn’t give to be able to taste this! It looks SO GOOD. I wonder if I can find some purple yams in Chinatown to try to recreate this jam…

  17. #
    Clarkie @ Beloved Green posted September 17, 2011 at 1:39 am

    I do not think I have ever seen purple yam at my grocer. I may have to ask around at the farmers market tomorrow morning.

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted September 17, 2011 at 11:07 pm

      Let me know if you do find it and if you end up making something with it!

  18. #
    MegSmith @ Cooking.In.College posted September 17, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    This is so pretty and so unique!

    • #
      Bianca Garcia posted September 17, 2011 at 11:08 pm

      Thank you! The purple color really is unique. I wish I had more!

  19. #
    Susan posted September 20, 2011 at 12:06 am

    I’ve probably said this before, but I love how you always share such surprising recipes. What a cool dessert!

  20. #
    Samantha @ Bikini Birthday posted September 22, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Aww. What a sweet post! I’m always intrigued by the foods of different cultures. I’ve never heard of this Ube Jam before but I would probably like it (I like anything sweet. I don’t discriminate.)

    I really miss my situ’s (Lebanese grandmother’s) Turkish Delight. They were the best I’ve ever eaten and I’ve never had anything as good since.

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