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This Year’s Ube Fest Will Be More Ube-licious Than Ever

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a fresh batch of purple ube cookies with toasted marshmallow are laid out by the dozen
Ube-related treats, like these ube cookies, have become some of the most Insgragrammable food content in recent years. (Courtesy Macs By Icky)

Two years ago, my food writing colleague Luke Tsai noticed a significant rise in ube-related events happening during in the spring. He predicted a delectable future: “We might as well go ahead and designate April as National Ube Month.”

Well, he’s right. On Sunday, April 7, San Francisco’s District Six will host their largest ever Ube Fest.

Certainly you’ve either heard of or eaten ube at this point. The sweet, starchy and iconically purple yam from the Philippines has had the Bay Area’s most creative foodmakers under a lavender spell for years. But it’s something that has always held weight in the Filipino American community. And at the outdoor market of Ube Fest, a squad of over 20 local vendors will showcase their favorite ingredient’s delicious versatility.

Two ube cupcakes, ube pandesals and ube flan cheesecakes, against a white background.
Ube cupcakes, ‘flandesals’ and ube flan cheesecakes — all from Hayward-based Marley’s Treats, where the ube desserts are by far the most popular items. (Marley's Treats)

“I’m excited that everyone is catching on because it deserves the spotlight,” says Joseph Alcasabas, co-owner of SoMa’s cool Filipino American eatery Uncle Tito, who will be serving two varieties of ube at the festival. “It’s just eye catching out of the gate, right? The bold purple has you wondering what it tastes like. That builds curiosity within foodie culture. And then the taste delivers.”

Uncle Tito’s head chef Vincent Dayao will prepare a rice bowl with the rice seasoned using ube and coconut milk to give the white grains a natural purple dye.

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And that’s not even the tip of the purple iceberg.

Ube salsa on tacos. Ube dessert bars. Ube lemonade. Ube cookies. Ube kettle corn. Ube musubi. Ube pies. Ube nachos? (That last one isn’t actually a thing yet, but it should be — and rest assured that Uncle Tito will be serving their “bistek chistek nachos,” which is a play on a Philly cheesesteak and Filipino bistek in the glorious form of Mexican tortilla chips.)

Food vendors will include other San Francisco and East Bay favorites like Señor Sisig, Al Pastor Papi and Marley’s Treats. There will also be DJs, local nonprofits, pop-up clothing and botanical shops, and even a booth to learn more about baseball in the Philippines. 

Ube buns and Milo banana creme lumpia on a white plate, dusted with powdered sugar.
The ube buns are a collaboration with Valerio’s Tropical Bakeshop, a staple of the local Filipino community. (Alan Chazaro)

Recently returned from a lengthy stay in the Philippines, the event’s organizer, Anthony Schlander of Anthony Presents, is eager to share his renewed connection to his parents’ homeland with Bay Area eaters and hypebeasts alike.

“I took a mental break last year, but I’m going to put my efforts back into food and community events [in the Bay Area] this year,” Schlander says. “[This year’s Ube Festival] will actually be our busiest one ever. Ube is purple gold.”

For him, ube is a gateway into learning more about what the Philippines have to offer. It just happens to be a flavorful starting point.

The Ube Festival will take place at District Six (428 11th St., San Francisco) on Sunday, April 7 from 12–5 p.m. Tickets are available here.

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