Trader Joe’s Ube Products: Where To Find Ube Off-Chain

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Here’s where to find ube products if you can’t catch them at Trader Joe’s.

Design by Grace Han for Thrillist

It is impossible to find any of the Trader Joe’s ube products. Ube, the purple yam native to the Philippines, first hit freezers at the beloved grocery chain in 2019 as ice cream. Since that initial launch, Trader Joe’s has also released a mix of ube mochi pancakes, as well as tins of ube tea cookies. Ube products have caused a frenzy.

On a trip back to California, I managed to pick up a tin of tea cookies, but the other two items were sold out. I then visited three different Trader Joe’s in the New York area; ube desserts have remained elusive. My editor in Baltimore also couldn’t find a single ube article at his local Trader Joe’s. The quest for Trader Joe’s purple-tinted goods remained a challenge.

“Usually we place orders for the day and get deliveries every day, but ube [products] just kept selling and it’s over for the season, ”relayed a Trader Joe employee in Brooklyn. An employee from another location in New York told me the stock only lasted about two weeks.

You can find ube in the form of ice cream, which usually crowns the Filipino sundae known as halo-halo; in cookies such as folds and polvorons; and in cakes. Ube halaya, which is a jam made from purple tubers and condensed milk, can be added to desserts or simply eaten as a snack.

The shortage we feel at Trader Joe’s can also be attributed to a shortage in the Philippines. The bulletin Meryenda, which explores Filipino eating habits, describes the challenges Filipino farmers face in meeting the global demands of ube. In 2006, more than 30,000 tonnes of ube were harvested. That number was just over 14,000 in 2019.

Despite the challenges, many of which consumers are unaware of, ube continues to build followers at Trader Joe’s and beyond. Filipino bakers are excited for the answers.

“We are absolutely delighted to see ube become more popular and therefore Filipino cuisine. As a small bakery, our goal is to introduce the food of our culture to the general public and hope it becomes even more popular, ”said James Aldrin, Creative Director of the Los Angeles-based company. Hopia likes it.

At the two bakeries located in the San Fernando Valley, customers can find ube in hopias, a puff pastry filled with dense fillings; cookies; and ensaymadas, or Filipino brioche. Along with ube desserts is a whole range of other Filipino specialties. “The more there are, the more the merrier,” he says. “I could see some frustration with fusion foods that might not represent the authentic taste, but if it’s the catwalk that gets people to try more, I’m totally on board. “

hopia cake roll like that ube
An ube bun is prepared at Hopia Like It. | Courtesy of Hopia Like It

For Abi Balingit, the baker behind the popular culinary blog, The dark kitchen, Trader Joe’s is grateful for providing credit where it is due. “Trader Joe’s does a great job saying he’s from the Philippines and describing the flavor,” Balingit said. “They said it was like a cross between vanilla and pistachio, which is what I also like to say.”

It’s not just this fragrant flavor that is so captivating. The best-known tuber varieties have a naturally purple hue that tints anything it touches with a beautiful lilac (or dark purple, sometimes with the help of dyes) color. That being said, Balingit hopes people appreciate ube beyond the aesthetic and consider the flavor. “If you’re going to do something, especially something that’s ube flavored, I hope it’s intentional,” Balingit says. “And you’ve been thinking about where it comes from, and there are certain flavors that go better with it.”

For example, looks like Trader Joe’s may have missed the mark on ube tea cookies, which are completely overwhelmed by the flavor of cinnamon and lack ube except for its musty purple color. Balingit agrees.

While much of the ube craze in America started at Trader Joe’s, especially for buyers who have never heard of Southeast Asian yams, delve into the flavor. shouldn’t stop at this particular grocery chain.

“I would say as soon as you get out of Trader Joe’s, go to the nearest seafood town, if you’re lucky, or 99 Ranch,” Balingit explains. “These are the places where you will find not only ube, but buko pandan, jackfruit, extracts and frozen products. The reality is that we don’t live in these tropical climates all the time, but you will always have the opportunity to experience [these flavors]. “

hopia like that hopias ube guava buko pandan
A tray of colorful Hopia Like It hops in flavors like ube, buko pandan and guava cream. | Courtesy of Hopia Like It

Or better yet, visit a local Filipino mom and pop shop, such as Hopia Like It. “Just like most foods, you’ll want to taste the freshest to really feel the flavor. You won’t get that with prepackaged food in the aisles of Trader Joe’s, ”says Aldrin. “I’m biased, but we’ve heard that our ube flavored hopia is one of the best Filipino pastries on the market.” In addition to the ube version, Hopia Likes It also offers hopia in flavors such as buko pandan, red bean, guava cream, and more.

“I think that’s the beauty of not controlling that. It’s like, ‘Okay, this is the gateway,’ ”Balingit said of Trader Joe’s and its expanding line of ube products. “Just know that there are so many great traditional ingredients from so many countries, especially the Philippines.”

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Kat Thompson is a writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.



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