Years ago, I wanted to make from-scratch ube pancakes. At the time, people were finding any way to incorporate sweet potato, and I imagined that I could make a dish by recreating my favorite sweet breakfast with the purple, Filipino yam. I’m not sure what I was thinking since I’m the world’s worst pancake-maker to begin with—it was a huge failure.
Though it wasn’t yet on my radar, that same year a modern, Filipino restaurant in the East Village of New York City opened, and on their menu they featured a twist on the Southern classic, fried chicken and waffles. I didn’t know it then, but over the next 5 years places all over the world would serve similar takes on ube waffles as well. The idea is so simple, yet genius for those of us who grew up loving ube in classic Filipino dishes.
I recently had a conversation with a Filipino-born chef based in the U.S. about the repercussions of such a dish. She often wonders what hybrid foods like ube waffles means for the foodscape of Philippine cuisine. Will the next generation of Fil-Ams grow up appreciating sapin-sapin or the classic ube halaya in the way that they deserve, when dishes like ube waffles and donuts are thrust into the limelight?