Everyone Is Mad about Tapioca – but What It Is Exactly?
Tapioca is produced from roots of the cassava plant (another name is tupi-guarane or yucca). Cassava roots are widely used not only to produce tapioca, they taste delicious in boiled, fried and dried form. Tapioca is nutritious and useful. Want to learn more? Keep on reading!
Origin of tapioca
The cassava plant originates from modern Brazil, where it is the 8th most popular agriculture product. Many other countries cultivate it as well: Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria in West Africa, Thailand, Indonesia in Southeast Asia, Venezuela and Colombia in South America. Tapioca is available in various forms (flour, starch and so-called tapioca ‘pearls’) and is widely used by Asian chefs, especially by Thai.
What is so special about tapioca?
Tapioca is famous due to its quite unique qualities. First of all, since it is not grain, tapioca does not contain gluten. It means that people with celiac syndrome (i.e. gluten intolerance) can eat it. And as it is available in various forms of flour, starch and ‘pearls’ and has thickening cooking qualities, it significantly enriches diet of such people and they can even bake something yummy with tapioca starch. Check here for a few delicious recipes. Secondly, its starch is protein-free that is an undeniable benefit for people who want to reduce their protein consumption.
According to the research of the Institute of Medicine, tapioca is rich in choline, which is an essential nutrient and regulates cholesterol level in the blood. It also contains vitamin B, necessary for normal work of the nervous system, phosphorus and calcium – the minerals important for bone tissue strength. Moreover, tapioca starch contains potassium, which removes excess fluid, normalizes blood pressure and work of the cardiovascular system.
Tapioca starch is also characterized by antimicrobial activities (like green tea and romaine salad), which means it reduces growth of yeasts and molds.
Tapioca in cooking
Semi-transparent tapioca ‘pearls’ are nourishing and easily digestible, so a variety of delicious dishes are cooked with such pearls. What is interesting, tapioca can be used in both sweet and salty dishes, as it tastes neutral. Tapioca is very good for cooking a nutritious and gentle gruel, which is widely used as a dietary product for children and patients.
In Western European cuisine, tapioca is used in soups, broths, to thicken sauces and fruit fillings for desserts: the main advantage of tapioca flour is that it does not get spoilt in low temperatures.
As for tapioca pearls, they are usually white, but can take any colors and shades, and this quality makes tapioca pearls a super original decoration for dishes, a kind of colored caviar. Actually, Asian chefs widely use colored tapioca pearls to decorate desserts.
Chefs all over the world use tapioca, especially Asians, but some Europeans do as well. Jamie Oliver, a world-famous British chef, is fond of tapioca and proposes a few recipes, such as Colchester pudding, tapioca crepes, toasted farofa and sagu.