What is Tapioca?
They are the squishy pearls that give the pudding and bubble tea a unique taste and texture. Tapioca is a starch extracted from the cassava root, a tuber that is native to South America and Brazil. It is also utilised as a thickener in pies. They do not grow in plants like other vegetables—instead, it’s a starch obtained from the root of a plant whose scientific name is Manihot esculenta.
Tapioca has a vague flavour and strong gelling power, which makes it helpful as a thickening agent. The good thing about tapioca is that it can endure a freeze-thaw cycle without succumbing to its gel structure.
It comes in various forms such as flour, flakes, pearls and meals. Tapioca is opaque before cooking, but it turns crystalline while hydrated. The pearls are usually white or off-white in colour and are used mostly in making desserts. Boba is big sweetened pearls that are primarily dyed black and used for bubble tea.
Where is it found?
It is endemic to South America and the Caribbean. Its major producers are Thailand, Brazil and Nigeria, but it is grown worldwide today. It is known by various names worldwide, such as in the U.S, called yucca or cassava.
How is it made?
Its production varies from region to region as it involves squeezing the liquid out of ground cassava root. Once these cassava plants are harvested, their roots are used to eradicate the toxins found in them.
Once the starch comes, the water is allowed to evaporate, and once the water is evaporated, then a good tapioca powder is produced. Then this powder is made in different forms like pearls or flakes. (See What Is Mustard Made Of?)
Benefits of Tapioca
This is the most exciting part as it is full of health benefits. Some of the significant advantages of it are that it is free of common allergens, easy to digest, supports weight gain, is a rich source of calcium, is low in sodium, and a great source of iron. It is nearly 100% carbohydrate and is considered fat-free & protein-free.
It is a dry product, and you can keep it for a more extended period, but you need to make sure that it is kept in a sealed top box that prevents its exposure to bugs, heat, and moisture. Remember that it is not advisable to keep tapioca in a freezer or refrigerator.
What is it used for?
Tapioca is a gluten-free product with numerous uses, such as it is used to make gluten and grain-free bread, flatbread, bubble tea, puddings & desserts as a thickener and binding agent. In fact, you would be surprised to know that even the roots of the cassava plant are used for a great purpose. Its roots can be used for forming biodegradable bags instead of plastic bags.
One ounce, i.e., 28 grams of dry tapioca, consists of 100 calories, zero grams of fat, and zero grams of protein. (See How Are Pickles Made?)