Delicious, healthy and sweet, purple potatoes have become increasingly popular and gram-worthy on social media. You can find them in everything from ube pancakes to taro bubble tea and beni imo Kit-Kats.
But with many varieties available, let's take a look at the differences between ube, taro, and beni imo:
The word ‘ube’ (pronounced oo-bae) comes from Tagalog, the main language in the Philippines, and is a staple in many Filipino desserts and now Western desserts. Ube can also be identified as a purple yam as it is grown in the same way. Its flavor is described to be a cross between white chocolate and pistachio. In baking and bubble tea, powdered ube or ube essence is often used to give desserts a bright purple hue. Frozen or fresh ube is often used for desserts like ube halaya, doughnuts, halo halo, and many more.
Taro is often confused with ube but actually look different in appearance. The outside of a taro root is brown and fuzzy, and its flesh inside can either be white or light purple with specks. When cooked, the flesh turns a slight grey or purple color. Powdered taro is often used for some desserts and bubble tea. Fresh or frozen taro is can be found in flaky desserts or baos in dim sum, hot pot, or creamy milks. There are many uses for taro both savory and sweet.
Beni imo, otherwise known as purple sweet potato, is the only one of the three that is actually a sweet potato. It is often confused for ube because of its flesh is a similar color. However, beni imo are light-skinned on the outside while ube are dark-skinned. Beni imo is a staple agricultural produce in Japan's southernmost island of Okinawa and in Hawaiian cuisine, beni imo has made its way into traditional desserts like sweet potato pie.
Beni imo is labeled as a superfood as it contains anti-aging and anti-oxidant properties and many nutrients and minerals. You can prepare beni imo the same way as you would any potato but it is most commonly used in baking and desserts.
About the author:
Samantha is currently a 5th-year JET in Okinawa, originally from Hawaii. She has been somewhat connected to Japanese culture her whole life despite being Chinese American. She's had the privilege of traveling to Japan and experiencing Japanese culture at a young age. She loves food and is always looking to try new places. When she is not working or out eating, she is an avid baker at home and has been known to feed her colleagues an excessive amount of baked goods.