For some reason, few English words begin with the letter U compared to most other words of the alphabet. This is even more pronounced when it comes to naming foods in English.
There are many other languages and cultures in the world, however, that love the letter U. In this list of 24 foods that start with U, you are guaranteed to be introduced to some of the more unique foods found around the world.
24 Foods That Start With The Letter U
Ube is a type of purple yam that originates from the Philippines. The skin may be either a dusty purple color or a deep brown. The tubers are often uniform and cylindrical in shape, very similar to sweet potatoes and other varieties of yams, but they may also be gnarled and twisted.
The flesh is a bright, marbled violet or lavender purple and it retains its color even when cooked. Ube yams are surprisingly sweet, with undertones of vanilla and nuts. This makes them very popular for use in desserts, such as cake or pudding.
2. Ububese Fruit
Ububese is the Ndebele name for a fruit we would call African custard-apple in English. It’s similar to the custard-apples of Central and South America and Australia, as well as soursop, a related fruit.
The heart-shaped fruits are covered in bumps that look almost like scales. They develop in color from green when they’re young and immature to a golden color as they ripen, deepening to burnt-orange over time. Inside, the stringy flesh of mature fruit is a rich yellow with black seeds.
Ububese fruits are sweet with a custard-like texture and flavor.
Udon is a type of thick noodle made from wheat or buckwheat flour. Like most pasta, the noodles themselves don’t have much flavor, but they are appreciated for their thickness, which adds great texture to soups.
Udon noodles are most commonly served in a simple brown broth though in warm weather they may also be used as the base for cold salads, mixed with fresh or cooked vegetables as well as chicken or eggs.
Cow udders were traditionally consumed, although they’re only very recently being explored as a viable edible option in today’s culture. They are solid muscle, similar to a tongue.
Depending on how it is prepared, the texture can range between chewy like calamari, and fatty, like a well-marbled steak. It can also be cured and thinly sliced to be fried. This enhances the naturally sweet flavor and makes the udder taste similar to sugared bacon.
5. Ugli Fruit
Ugli fruit, or the Jamaican tangelo, is a type of citrus fruit that grows in Jamaica as a natural hybrid between oranges and grapefruits. They’re called ugli, which is now a trademarked name, because of the wrinkly rind that always has a slightly unappealing greenish-yellow color, unlike the bright hues of most other citrus fruits, this tangelo is dull and mottled.
Ugli fruits grow larger than grapefruits, though have fewer seeds and a sweeter flavor, with only a hint of the bitterness grapefruits are known for.
Ugni is an evergreen shrub in the myrtle family that grows in Latin America, primarily Chile. The leaves are vibrant green and very glossy, giving off a pleasant spicy scent if they’re crushed.
The berries are tiny red or purple fruits that taste remarkably similar to a strawberry. In fact, many strawberry flavored commercial products use ugni berries rather than actual strawberries. They’re also used in sweet recipes, including desserts, jams, and beverages.
7. Ukazi Leaves
Ukazi leaves, also sometimes called okazi or afang leaves, are glossy green leaves from the Gnetum Africanum plant. They’re the primary ingredient in a popular Nigerian soup called afang soup. They have a bitter flavor and extremely tough texture.
Fresh leaves need to be thinly sliced and dried leaves should be thoroughly ground before cooking to make them easier to eat. The roots of the plant, which grow into tubers similar to yams, are also edible.
The vines are used medicinally, said to reduce the pain of childbirth.
8. Ukrainian Heart Tomato
Ukrainian heart tomatoes are a Russian heirloom variety of tomato, known for their distinctive heart shape and pink color. It is an oxheart, a variety that tends to be meaty, large tomatoes with few seeds making them ideal for slicing.
Ukrainian heart tomatoes have a nice balance of sweetness in relation to the acidity, made even more enjoyable by the creamy texture.
Ulluco is a very common root vegetable grown in South America, second in popularity only to potatoes. The tubers are roughly round and lumpy with waxy skin that can be a range of pinks, purples, or even yellow.
They’re frequently used in stews and soups, similar to potatoes, but they’re also sometimes used to add substance to salads, along with their leafy greens, which are similar to spinach. Ulluco is similar to jicama in texture, staying crisp even after it’s cooked.
Ulluco is also perfect for pickling, after which they’re added to hot sauce, or drying and grinding into flour.
Umbles are the organs of animals, usually deer. This includes the bits that are regularly eaten as delicacies, such as liver and kidneys, as well as the rest of the organs which are edible but not commonly consumed, such as the heart and lungs.
The saying “eat humble pie” originally referred to umble pie, or more accurately, numble pie, which is still made and popular in households that pride themselves on eating the entire animal once it’s hunted.
Umbra is frequently mispronounced “umbrella fruit” because its most common name is ambarella fruit, which sounds very similar to “umbrella”. Umbra is the name of the fruit in Malaysia though it goes by many names, depending on where you’ve found the fruit.
Regardless of the name, the tropical fruit looks similar to a pale, bumpy avocado. The large inedible pit inside is closer to a peach pit, however, being quite fibrous and clinging to the flesh.
The green fruits fall from the tree before they’re ripe, but soften turn a golden-yellow color after being separated from the tree. The flesh is golden and juicy, tasting like a combination of pineapple and mango. It can be eaten fresh and raw, pickled, or made into jams and chutneys.
The leaves of the tree are also edible, used as a tart salad green.
Umbu is also known as a Brazil plum, despite the fact that it’s a citrus fruit. There are a number of varieties, some that grow as large as lemons and others that are as small as cherries. The peeling can be either yellow or green, vibrantly colored either way.
Umbu can be eaten fresh though the fruits are often juiced as well. The sour juice is popular, though the pulp from the fruit is even better when mixed with milk and sugar.
13. Ume (Umeboshi)
Ume is known as a Japanese plum, which is what it looks like, though it’s more closely related to apricots. The fruit is considered a drupe because it has a single, inedible stone. They are about the size of a plum, with smooth skin that is green when it’s young and matures into yellow, sometimes with a pink blush. The flesh is also golden yellow.
Ume is prepared in a variety of ways, though because they are quite sour they aren’t commonly eaten raw from the tree. They may be smoked, juiced, made into a condiment, or used to make plum wine.
Umeboshi is one of the most popular recipes for ume in Japan. The fruits are pickled and dried, usually when still green, for a very intense sour and salty experience.
Umibudo is also called sea grapes because it’s a unique type of sea algae that resembles tiny, translucent pale green grapes. They’re particularly popular in Okinawa, Japan though they can also be found in many parts of Southeast Asia.
The round “grapes” grow on edible stems. The entire underwater plant is edible though the distinguishing feature is the texture of the bubbles as they burst in your mouth. This texture is so popular in Japanese cuisine that it has its own name, “puchipuchi,” which, when used in reference to food, refers to the sound or feeling of little things popping.
Unagi is Japanese for freshwater eel. It’s a very popular ingredient in both sushi. There is a separate word for saltwater eel, anago, and the two are significantly different.
Unagi is poisonous unless they’re cooked correctly, so they’re usually only prepared by professional chefs.
Uni, or sea urchins, are round, spiny sea creatures that live along the seafloor along the rocks and coral. They’re considered a delicacy, though most uni lovers will admit they’re an acquired taste, especially when you understand what it is you’re actually eating.
The edible portion of sea urchins are the gonads, sometimes called roe.
Sea urchins are prepared in many different ways, depending on where they’re served. In the Mediterranean, they’re often eaten raw whereas in Italy they’re added to pasta sauce. While they’re eaten across the world, sea urchins are most popular in Japan, where the name uni comes from.
17. Urad Beans
Urad beans are very small black beans with a small yellow stripe along one side. They have pale yellow flesh and can be prepared like most other dried beans. They’re popular in Indian cuisine for making dal, though they’re also fermented to make into dumplings or converted to flour to make pancakes.
Urad beans can be difficult to find outside of Indian and if you have a recipe that calls for them, the closest alternatives are mung beans, adzuki beans, or pigeon peas.
18. Urava Fruit
Urava is a type of tree commonly found in mangroves growing from East Africa across the globe to the Pacific Islands.
The fruit, sometimes called mangrove apples, are curious looking. They’re small round spheres, only 2 – 3 inches in diameter, with a cap that looks like an elf would wear it. They also have long tails at the bottom of the fruit.
The flesh looks like a cross between a citrus fruit and a fig, surrounded by a thick green rind. The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked like a vegetable and tastes similar to quince. The leaves are also edible.
19. Urchin of the Woods Mushroom
The urchin of the woods, or hedgehog mushroom, has an off-white or pale yellow uneven cap with spines growing underneath instead of gills and continuing partway down the stem. The flesh is also an off-white color, turning yellow where it bruises.
They’re considered a gourmet mushroom, with a very pleasing nutty sweetness and crunchy texture, even when cooked. They can be slightly bitter if eaten raw.
20. Urfa Biber
Urfa biber is a chile pepper native to Turkey, named for its town of origin, that is dried and flaked.
When fresh, the peppers look similar to large, thin red poblano pepper and once they’re dried they turn a distinctive dark burgundy color.
Rather than being very spicy like many pepper flakes, Urfa biber has a smoky flavor at times sweet, sour or salty with a modest amount of heat.
21. Utazi Leaves
Utazi leaves are rich green, heart-shaped leaves that are most commonly eaten raw, particularly where they grow natively, in Africa. They have a mildly bitter flavor that is offset by a pleasant, though also mild, sweetness.
The stems are less appealing, being somewhat hairy and leaking a milky latex residue where they’re broken or cut.
The bitterness of the plant is thought to have beneficial effects on the liver and, in Africa, is often mixed into alcoholic beverages to prevent intoxication, hangovers, and liver disease.
22. Usuma Fruit
Usuma is the fruit of a large evergreen shrub native to Peru and Ecuador. They are sometimes called peanut butter fruit in English because the small red fruits taste eerily similar to peanut butter.
The berries look similar to cherry tomatoes, though covered in webbing and sometimes featuring very slight grooves lengthwise down their body, giving them a pointed end. The flesh has a pale yellow, hard, inedible seed surrounded by rich red pulp.
Uva is a botanical term for a pulpy or juicy fruit that has a thin skin and contains multiple seeds. It is most commonly used to refer to grapes, almost used exclusively for this specific fruit.
Uziza, or the Piper guineense plant, is native to Nigeria but popular throughout Africa and used frequently in African cuisine. The leaves are shiny and green can be eaten like a vegetable, notable for their spicy aroma.
The seeds are also edible and used for flavoring and seasoning. They have a hot, peppery flavor which makes sense because the plant is a relative of black pepper.
Honorable Mention: Ugly Produce
Not to be confused with the ugli fruit, ugly produce is a marketing term used to describe fruits and vegetables that don’t conform to the ideal image of what society believes they should look like. That’s right, even produce is subject to beauty standards.
When the plants are misshapen, irregularly colored, or have any other visible imperfection, they are kept separate from mass commercial sales. Until recently, this ugly produce was considered waste.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to find “Ugly Produce” subscription boxes that deliver less perfect produce at a discount price. Many commercial food producers are also welcoming this discount and using ugly produce to make juice or other prepared food products.
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