This unique dessert is served cool or cold and topped with crispy toasted coconut flakes. It’s ideal as a refreshing end to a summer barbecue, or an afternoon snack with interesting, contrasting textures.
Like a lot of Filipino dishes, the recipe for ube halaya (or halayang ube) aka Purple Yam Pudding, varies from region to region. Some use coconut milk but not condensed milk. Some use condensed milk but no coconut milk or sugar. This recipe uses all three. The factor that makes this recipe my favorite is the method. Other recipes require you to stand at the stove and constantly mix the pudding for up to an hour. This method uses steam.
However, this is another recipe from my mom (who likes to change an instruction or ingredient so whatever I cook is not as good as how she would’ve done it), so there’s been trial and error to make it how I like it, but also to make it with ingredients more readily found in American markets.
I’ve served this to family members and at potlucks several times. Both Filipinos and non-Filipinos have enjoyed it and it’s usually one of the first dessert plates scraped clean.
1 package frozen grated purple yam (aka ube) (16 oz or 2 cups, thawed.)
2 cups coconut milk (NOT cream, NOT oil. Chaokoh is my favorite brand.)
2/3 cup condensed milk (I like Eagle Brand.)
2 cups glutinous rice flour (Cheaper and more available in Asian markets)
1 cup sugar
For topping: 1 package of dried shredded coconut, the sweetened kind (Usually found in the baking section. NOT coconut flakes.)
Optional: 1 teaspoon of sugar
- Set the pack of frozen grated purple yam in a bowl of cool water to thaw. Should take about 30 minutes to an hour.
- While it’s thawing, prepare your steaming apparatus.* Grease the cake pans. Then line the greased cake pans with cling wrap. Set aside.
- Also while waiting for the yam to thaw, prep the dry ingredients. Mix the glutinous rice flour and sugar. Set aside.
- When the package of grated purple yam is thawed, you might have a lavender square-shaped mass with dark purple liquid in the bag. If you’re pretty sure the thawing water hasn’t gotten into the bag, save that dark purple liquid and add it to the the mix. Otherwise, pour it out.
- Combine the thawed yam, coconut milk, and condensed milk. Mix well.
- Add the wet mixture to the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir until the mixture is of uniform consistency. It will be like pancake or cake batter, runny, and won’t hold its shape.
- Pour into prepared pans, filling the pans no higher than 2/3 the pan height. The mixture puffs up while steaming and collapses into its pudding consistency while it cools.
- Depending on the size of the pan, steam for 40 minutes to an hour.
- Remove from steamer. Cool before eating.
- Store leftovers in the fridge.
Toasted Coconut Topping (You can prepare this while the pudding is cooling):
- Have a large jelly roll pan or cookie sheet handy.
- Pour the entire package of shredded sweetened coconut into a large skillet or wok.
- (optional) Sprinkle with about a teaspoon of sugar.
- Over medium-low heat, constantly stir the shredded coconut until all the coconut shreds turn the color of honey. (If you don’t constantly stir, the bottom shreds tend to scorch, and you’ll get unevenly-cooked topping.)
- Immediately pour the coconut shreds onto the jelly roll pan or cookie sheet. (They continue to cook even when you remove them from the fire.) Spread the shreds to dissipate heat.
- Sprinkle the topping on a serving of pudding right before eating, otherwise, it absorbs moisture from the pudding and gets stale and chewy.
- When cooled, store in an airtight container or zip-closed bag.
*The steaming setup I use is a 3-tier steamer. It’s great if you cook for a lot of people or do a lot of potlucks. You don’t need this. It’s huge, awkward to use in smaller kitchens, and a pain in the ass to store.
You can use a simple vegetable-steaming setup using a collapsible steamer in a big pot. Remove the center stem from the steamer to accommodate the cake pan.
PRODUCT RECOMMENDATIONS …
…to make this and future cooking projects easier.
I like this steaming basket because it has extra long legs (you can add more water for steaming) and a removable center stem.
This cake pan is a good size for a steaming basket setup. I like it for its 2 inch height, which is an uncommon height for cake pans.
This cake pan is slightly larger and more expensive, but it’s made in the USA by a company with a good reputation for the quality and longevity of its products.
Using a steaming basket setup, you’ll only be able to steam one cake pan at a time. But you can save half the pudding mix in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
Keep an eye on the water level. Once the water starts boiling, you can reduce the heat to medium, maybe even medium-low. As long as the water is simmering, it’ll generate enough heat and steam to cook the pudding.
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