Tapioca is a starch extracted from Manioc. This species is native to Northern Brazil but spread throughout the South American continent. The plant was carried by Portuguese and Spanish explorers to most of the West Indies, and continents of Africa and Asia, including the Philippines and Taiwan; it is cultivated worldwide.
Tapioca is a staple food in some regions, and it is used worldwide as a thickening agent in various foods. It is a gluten-free food
In Brazilian cuisine, tapioca is used for different types of meals. In beiju (or biju), the tapioca is moistened, strained through a sieve to become a coarse flour, then sprinkled onto a hot griddle or pan, where the heat makes the starchy grains fuse into a flatbread which resembles a grainy pancake
. Then it may be buttered and eaten as a toast, or it may be filled or topped with either salgados or doces, which define the kind of meal the tapioca is used for: breakfast/dinner, or dessert. Choices for fillings range from butter, cheese, ham, bacon, various kinds of meat, chocolate, fruits such as ground coconut, condensed milk, chocolate with sliced pieces of banana or strawberry, among others. This kind of tapioca dish is usually served warm.
A regional dessert called sagu is also made in Southern Brazil from tapioca pearls cooked with cinnamon and cloves in red wine. The cassava root is known by different names throughout the country: mandioca in the North, Central-West and in São Paulo
; tapioca or macaxeira in the Northeast; aipim in the Southeast (especially in Rio de Janeiro).
The fine-grained tapioca starch is called polvilho, and it is classified as either "sweet" or "sour". Sour polvilho is commonly used in dishes such as pão de queijo
or "cheese bread", in which the starch is mixed with a certain type of cheese similar to parmigiano (Parmesan
and baked in the oven. The final result is an aromatic, chewy and elastic kind of bread that is ubiquitous across the country. Sour cassava flour is mixed into mashed beans to make the dish tutu de feijão
While frequently associated with tapioca pudding, a dessert in the United States, tapioca is also used in other courses. Bubble tea
, made with tapioca pearls, is gaining popularity in cities with large Asian populations. People on gluten-free diets can eat bread made with tapioca flour. Tapioca is also used as an ingredient in the Canadian Daiya brand cheese substitute.
In Southeast Asia, the cassava root is commonly cut into slices, wedges or strips, fried, and served as a snack, similar to potato chips
, wedges or french fries. Another method is to boil large blocks until soft, and serve them with grated coconut
as a dessert, either slightly salted or sweetened, usually with palm sugar
syrup. In Thailand this dish is called Mansampalang.
Tapai is made by fermenting large blocks with a yeast-like bacteria culture to produce a sweet and slightly alcoholic dessert
. A variation of the chips popular amongst the Malays is kerepek pedas, where the crisps are coated with a hot, sweet and tangy chili and onion paste, or sambal, usually with fried anchovies and peanuts added.
, or crackers, is a major use of tapioca starch in Indonesia.
Commercially prepared tapioca has many uses. Tapioca powder is commonly used as a thickener for soups and other liquid foods. It is also used as a binder in pharmaceutical tablets and natural paints. The flour is used to make tender breads, cakes, biscuits, cookies, and other delicacies. Tapioca flakes are used to thicken the filling of pies made with fruits having a high water content.
A typical recipe for tapioca jelly can be made by washing 2 tablespoonfuls of tapioca, pouring a pint of water over it, and soaking for three hours. The mixture is placed over low heat and simmered until quite clear. If too thick, a little boiling water can be added. It can be sweetened with white sugar
, flavored with coconut milk or a little wine, and eaten alone or with cream
Cassava, often referred to as tapioca from its word in Portuguese, is called Kappa Kizhangu or Poola or Maracheeni or Cheeni or Kolli or Mathock , Poola in Malayalam.
Tapioca is widely consumed in the Indian state of Kerala, usually as breakfast or in the evening. It is boiled (after skinning and cutting it into large cakes of about 6–8 cm long or into small 2 cm cubes) in water till properly cooked, and the water is drained off. Once cooked, it can be mixed with grated coconut, chili, salt, turmeric etc., then steamed and mashed into a dry pudding. This can be garnished in oil with mustard, onion, curry leaves etc. if desired. Tapioca cakes (Chendan Kappa
) are often eaten with simple chili sauce (a paste of Green/Red Chili Shallot small red Onion Garlic Salt Oil).
Tapioca pudding is paired with Meat / Fish curry. Tapioca with fish curry
(especially sardines) is a delicacy in Kerala. Tapioca pudding with Chutta Unakka Mathi (dry salted sardine directly cooked on charcoal) and Green Chili is another popular combination. Kappa Biriyani is yet another Tapioca dish.
Tapioca can be stored for longer periods by parboiling and drying it, after skinning and slicing it into 0.5 cm thick pieces. This is called Unakka Kappa or Vaattu Kappa
(dried tapioca). Unakka Kappa pudding is widely consumed in Kerala. Tapioca Chips, thinly sliced tapioca wafers, similar to potato chips, are also popular.
Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka
Tapioca is also available in Andhra Pradesh and coastal regions, here it is called karrapendalam in Telugu. Cassava is called kanda in Telugu. In Kannada, cassava is called kolli(mara genasu), and the starch product is known as Sabbakki
. In Telugu and other regions of Andhra.
In Tamil, the roots of tapioca are called Maravalli Kilangu
, and are used to prepare chips
. Tapioca chips are also prepared in parts of South India. Tapioca pearls are referred to as "Javvarisi
" in Tamil. Most of the delicacies are cooked from this form of Tapioca because it is relatively easier to handle than the raw root by itself. In Tamil Nadu, tapioca is cultivated more in the districts of Erode, Namakkal and Salem. The cultivation of tapioca is manpower intensive only at the time of planting and harvest. It provides a steady income to the farmers. Tapioca called maravallikilangu can be consumed raw (after removing the skins/outer cover). It can also be boiled and different dishes like Curry
(Tamil) can be made. It can also be made into chips to use as snacks during tea time.