Origins & Information - (A-Z) Tapioca

You've probably heard of tapioca in the context of either pudding or boba/bubble tea drinks. It's the chewy jelly-looking thing in your dessert and drink. When I was little, my mom convinced me that the miniature pearls were frog eyes but of course they weren't. What I learned about two years ago was what tapioca actually looked like in its natural form. My friends and I were trying to figure out what tapioca really was so did some internet sleuthing and found something that was unexpected.

You see, tapioca is a starch. What do you think of when you think of the word starch? I think of different roots and carbohydrate-filling foods. Guess what? Tapioca does come from a root. It is extracted from the cassava root, a shrub-like plant that is native to South America, and is named for the Tupi word of making the starch edible, tipi'óka. The process by which the starch is removed is quite complicated but necessary because cassava contains toxins that are dangerous when much is consumed. The root is pulped and washed until the starch remains which is later heated up until a paste is formed. This is later put into various forms such as powders, flakes, or pearls. It can be used as a thickening agent or whole such as in bubble tea drinks. Don't count on tapioca being the source of many nutrients though because it is quite lacking in that as well as natural flavor. Make sure to enjoy tapioca in the many dishes it is featured in like tapioca pudding!

This post is part of an A-Z series I am running for my blog category "Origins and Information" while I am in Vietnam with my family for July. Many of the posts in the series answer questions that were posed by friends/readers. If y'all enjoy the series, I will gladly run another in the future!