Tapioca is essentially a flavourless starchy ingredient, or fecula, produced from treated and dried cassava (manioc) root and used in cooking. It is similar to sago and is commonly used to make a milky pudding similar to rice pudding.
Tapioca pudding is a common pudding with tapioca pearls added to a vanilla pudding. It can be discerned from other types of pudding by the small, translucent and almost caviar-like orbs of tapioca within. Tapioca is a starch derived from the root of the cassava plant, also known as manioc. The root requires processing to withdraw tapioca in the form of flakes, seeds or pearls. Cassava is native to South and Central America. It is now produced in Africa and Asia.
What exactly is tapioca?
Tapioca is basically a root starch derived from the cassava, or yuca plant. It's often used to thicken soups and sweeten the flavor of baked goods, and it makes a dandy pudding.
The cassava plant is native to South America and the West Indies, where its thick, fibrous roots are used in a variety of forms: bread flour, laundry starch, an alcoholic brew, and of course, tapioca pudding. As the Encyclopedia Britannica tells us, it was probably first harvested by the Mayans.
Budi Acid Jaya, a tapioca starch producer in Indonesia, uses processed cassava roots to make raw materials for crackers, toothpaste, paper, and textiles. Visit the site for an overview of the starch production process. It involves lots of heat and water.
It is suggested you don't try making your own tapioca at home. Cassava roots have traces of cyanide in them! The ever-resourceful Mayans figured out how to extract this poison for their blow darts, leaving the uncontaminated roots free for eating.
Old Fashion Pearl Tapioca Pudding
1/2 Cup Tapioca Pearls
1 1/2 Cups Milk
1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
1 Fresh Vanilla Bean
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 pinch Salt
2 Egg Yolks
Soak the pearls in water overnight, covered well with water. Drain the water off.
Heat the milk, cream, vanilla bean (split and scraped), and tapioca to a slow simmer in a heavy pot and cook for 1 hour, stirring often.
Add the sugar and salt. Bring to a simmer being careful not to let the tapioca stick to the bottom of the pan.
Put the yolks into a bowl and stir in some of the tapioca mixture to equalize the temperature. Add to the pan while stirring. Pour into a bowl and cool.
Makes 6 portions
Vanilla Tapioca Pudding
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
1/3 cup sugar (divided use)
2 cups milk
3 eggs, separated
1 tablespoon vanilla
Mix tapioca, half of the sugar, milk, and the egg yolks in a saucepan.
Let stand 5 minutes, then cook, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full boil. Remove from heat. It will thicken as it cools.
Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Adding remaining sugar a tablespoon at a time; continue to beat until stiff but not dry.
Fold meringue into the cooled tapioca. Add vanilla and stir until blended.