Strange Snacks of the World -- Ube

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Don't touch that monitor! Those wild purple and lavender hues are not the result of some defect in your computer, but a color that occurs in nature, believe it or not.

Purple is the color of ube (pronounced "ooooo--beeee"), the national root vegetable of the Philippines. "Ube" is Tagalog for Dioscorea alata, a purple tuber sweeter than a potato, but not as sweet as an orange yam. It occurs in Southeast Asia and in India, where it is known as ratalu.

The sweetness and moistness of ube is often exploited in sweet pastries in the Philippines. Filipinos also love the bright purple color, and use it in puddings, cakes, frostings, candies, breads, and ice creams. The above specimen comes from the foremost Philippine bakery in the region, Philippine Bread House, long a fixture of the Filipino neighborhood a few blocks east of Jersey City's Journal Square. Do the above cake and frosting taste like yam? Not in the least -- but both sure are sweet! 530 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, NJ, 201-659-1753 

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