promises in an jar of ube jam
The adoration of dessert foods made up of sweetened mashed root vegetables or legumes, or jelly-like substances swimming in liquid, I always think of as a uniquely Asian thing. Red bean buns. Bubble tea. Grass jelly. Buchi (sesame seed) balls. Mooncakes. A couple of days ago, my mother left me a jar each of nata de coco, white beans, macapuno, and ube jam. The jars, all lined up in a row, are like a promise that I can eat my way back to my childhood. Or at least, assemble a damn good
The ube jam gets demolished first. We're like long-lost friends. I grew up mashing this stuff into my mouth. The last time we met, in 2009, I was coming back from the Philippines and
from my mother's hometown of Sorsogon. I also got starry-eyed over a tray of ube strawberry chiffon cakes in Goldilocks, a much-loved national bakery. I think I cut my day out in Manila short so that I could hurry back to my hotel room and eat it, cross-legged on top of my duvet.
I'm not gonna lie. Maybe if ube jam wasn't such a delightful lavender colour, I wouldn't like it as much. This ube jam is like a barely-mashed sweet potato or kumara but with a smokier flavour. It's pumped full of sugar. Because, hey, we're all friends here.
makes ube cupcakes with it.
, my favourite
, has Martha Stewart'ed the EFF out of these
. Don't spread it on bread like I did in these pictures. That was just desperation.
The macapuno balls are dripping in sickly sweet sugary syrup. They taste very faintly of coconut
but mostly of liquid sugar. To some people, that sentence promises the best things on earth. The texture is awesome. It's got the great grated coconut grain (bonus tongue twister for you) that crackles against your teeth but also has the viscosity of....
Trust me. It's good.
The packaging is uniquely Filipino; that aggressive yellow sun filched from the flag and the cheery name
Guys, this is a country where you can greet people by shouting
in their face. That's a sort of mash-up of
Great! LIFE! TO life! Live Great!
So in English, someone would say to you, "Hey. How are you?" and
get to shout back, "LIVE GREAT!!!"
My other favourite thing about these little jars of Filipino-living-great-sunshine are the unashamed listing of exotic ingredients like: FD & C Red #40/Allura Red/E129 and FD & C Blue #1/Brilliant Blue/E 133. I feel like I could code a web page with these things. Yesterday, I served a dollop of the ube with the macapuno to my friends. One of them looks up from inspecting the jar and asks, "What's coconut
?" A sporty coconut. Who knew?
I try not to flinch when reading the words
emblazoned on the front. Other countries food labelling practices are all about the word
but in the Philippines, we're straight up. You're eating