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This buko pie with ube halaya is the comfort food you should try

Purple Yam has been doing this since the late ’90s

When it comes to food, among the best that would reflect the Filipino flavor are coconut (buko) and purple yam (ube). These crops aren’t just mere ingredients but are priced products that set the Philippines in the culinary map.

Buko is one of the country’s most diverse products, creating a broad range of dishes, from the savory and creamy ginataan meals to sweet delicacies like macapuno. While ube is well-loved as a jam by many Filipinos, it is also used in soup and cooked with seafood. But nothing beats a dessert pairing that is made of ube and buko, which, for a Filipino restaurant in the US, is one of the key ingredients to their success.

Amy Besa and chef Romy Dorotan (Photo from @amycbesa) 

Helmed by couple Amy Besa and chef Romy Dorotan, Purple Yam is a restaurant that is dedicated not only in serving best Filipino dishes but also reimagining the cuisine. First established in New York in 2009, the restaurant came to the Philippines with the opening of Purple Yam Malate in 2014.

“The goal has always been, the food that you produce has got to be the best that you can produce. It starts with the very best ingredients you can get. Then with cooking techniques that don’t cut corners, that reflect your respect for the ingredients that you get,” Amy tells Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. “You respect your ingredients, and then you respect the tradition of where your food comes from.”

The two’s first foray in making the best buko pie with ube halaya started in their first restaurant in New York, Cendrillon, which opened in 1995. According to Amy, the inspiration for combining the two delicacies came from an ube macapuno jelly roll in the ’60s.

“I remember when we started serving buko pie in Cendrillon, there was something missing about it,” Amy recalls. “Can we put something in there that will break the monotony of buko? Then I remember that jelly roll… We put a layer of ube halaya there… We have been doing this since the late ’90s.”

That’s not the only dish they experimented with ube that time. Before the 2020 ube craze in the Philippines, they have made ube served in lumpia wrappers, cooked pasta and pizza, and even turned into ube pandesal.

But what makes the ube buko pie truly exceptional doesn’t just lie on the ube. To create varying textures for pie, they opt to use buko from different stages of maturity, the malakanin and lukadon. They mix two kinds of ube fruit, one is fragrant and light in color and the other is darker in color and has a gritty texture, to create the perfect jam. And they infuse their cream with a mixture of nipa starch from Maguindanao and cornstarch.

“There are three types of ingredients that we like to use as a guideline for what we do in Purple Yam Malate–the unknown, ignored, and undervalued,” she muses. “Filipinos take for granted so many of these ingredients that people go insane about here in the States.”

“For us, we would never serve people food that we will refuse to eat. The food that we would love to share is something that we accomplish because we put all our efforts and all our passion into producing it. I hope that what has been successfully communicated to everyone who has worked for us who has cooked for us or has served with us,” Amy says. “It is my hope that we pass on this legacy because we’ve been doing this for close to 26 years. These young people who are working for us will inherit this legacy and will pass it on.”

Check out more of the best Filipino dishes up for delivery @purpleyammalate.

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