The difference between Ube and Taro is a general question as both foods get mixed up because of their primarily brownish bark. However, they look distinctly different from the inside. Ube has a vibrant, royal purple hue, whereas taro has a light-coloured inside speckled with dots.
Saving our readers the hassle of reading through active threads on Reddit discussing ube versus taro, we dived deep into research to bring you this article, so continue reading for more!
Ube (Purple yam)
The word "Ube" comes from Tagalog, the main dialect of the Philippines. It translates literally to "tuber". A tuber is the thickened underground stem of a plant, and yams also fall in this category. The tuber turns a brilliant purple when cooked.
So, if you are wondering, "is purple yam the same as ube?" then the answer to that is yes! You can use the two names interchangeably.
This vine-type plant or Dioscorea alata thrives well in tropical weather and is usually grown in the Philippines. The plant is very hardy and can survive in all kinds of soil and climate. This makes it a fond favourite of the Filipinos who have long used them in snacks such as ube with coconut pudding and, more recently, ube boba.
When comparing the cultivation of ube versus taro, we can see the striking differences between them, as taro is a low growing plant.
Purple yam has gained a following for its gorgeous colour. Check out the @honestfoodtalks Instagram to see drool-worthy desserts that include both root vegetables.
You will generally find taro in Southeast Asia and India. Interestingly, its name comes from the Māori language of New Zealand since it was first by natives discovered there. It is still a significant crop in the Pacific Islands. It travelled with traders to Japan almost 2,500 years ago and became part of staple cooking there. Another name for it is dasheen.
Dasheen is a root of the Colocasia Esculenta with leaves that look like elephants' ears. It grows well in wet tropical areas. Some people also stew the large leaves of the plant for soup. However, eaten raw, they are poisonous.
Let's compare the usage of ube versus taro in Asia.
In Japan, tourists might think they are looking at purple yams in the supermarkets based on the colour. But the purple vegetable they see might be Japanese sweet potatoes. This is because Japanese sweet potatoes are purple and bear a strong resemblance to purple yam!
The Chinese are fond of dasheen, especially in dim sum, frying it up to extract its clean, minimalistic flavour.
This root appears in many Asian dishes, especially in snacks such as mochi, cakes and fritters. If you decide which to cook based on the popularity of ube versus taro, then know that Asian desserts and dishes use the root vegetables differently.
Ube has a rough outer skin and is usually brown, but might sometimes have a slightly purplish hue. When you open the yam, it is very purple, and the colour darkens when cooked.
However, taro has an outer layer with stripes of white and feels rough. When you cut it open, the tissue inside is pale, with specks of brown. Once cooked, it just turns a little purplish-grey. The root is also almost oval-shaped.
Ube is sweet, with some likening it to honey, vanilla or white chocolate. That's why you will find it so commonly seen in Filipino dessert recipes.
On the other hand, taro is more of a raw, starchy, somewhat nutty flavour. So most people who prefer less sweet flavours will use it instead of purple yam in their cooking. No wonder millennials love their taro boba and desserts (since they are usually not too sweet)!
Cooked purple yam is almost similar to cooked potatoes. It is just slightly dryer and tastes relatively powdery. However, when cooked, it turns out lush and creamy.
The other root vegetable becomes soft and custard-like when it is steamed. However, when eaten, it still keeps a chalky, grainy taste.
Here are some quick facts about ube versus taro nutrition. First, the sweetness of purple yam comes from its natural flavonoid, anthocyanin. Also, this gives it colour. Not just that, anthocyanin reduces blood pressure and can help people with diabetes control blood sugar.
Moreover, purple yam has antioxidants that protect against chronic diseases such as cancers, heart diseases, and diabetes. Additionally, it has good bacteria that protects one from gut diseases such as colorectal cancer.
On the other hand, taro helps to control blood sugar since it contains fibre and starch. This makes it a good diet addition for people with diabetes. The high fibre also makes one feel fuller longer.
Additionally, it is also beneficial to gut health. It reduces a person's chances of heart diseases and cancer because of its high antioxidants and polyphenols. Plant-based compound polyphenols have various health benefits, including the potential to reduce cancer risk.
In choosing whether to cook ube versus taro based on nutrition, consider that both vegetables contain Vitamins A, B types, C and other antioxidants like potassium and magnesium. They are both excellent sources of nutrients.
Popular food trends
Since both root vegetables are hardy plants and accessible, we see them in many foods. But people often like to be innovative with their food, so do food creatives have preferences for ube versus taro?
Yes, it seems. For instance, one search on Instagram can tell the community loves the eye-popping purple yam in ice cream and even boba tea. Not surprisingly, a search for Tiktok food trends also saw more videos that use ube rather than taro.
Many patisseries drizzle purple yam over their pastries and doughnuts in South Korea, where food trends go viral fast and furious.
Dasheen is more prevalent in drinks since its starchy, dry texture makes it a pleasant addition for smoothies and boba.
But Tiktok has interestingly introduced dasheen in a novel way. Instead of using it for its roots, social media creators boil the leaves thoroughly and use them to make curry, a recipe idea borrowed from Indian cooking.
One cup (100 grams) of cooked ube has 140 calories. One cup of cooked taro has 187 calories. The calorie differences between ube versus taro are very marginal since both vegetables are nutritious.
When you're choosing between ube or taro on your next shopping trip, remember these differences and similarities!
Next up, check out these delicious and nutritious purple fruits and vegetables to add to your diet!