A failure contributes to learning. It is an impetus for analysing a mistake, making a change and trying again. If you wish to master the trial and error method of acquiring knowledge, start with a bag of tapioca pearls and attempt to achieve a dry, light and fluffy side dish. This kind of problem solving is known as guess and check in elementary algebra.
Needless to say how many times I’ve ended up with slimy, sticky porridge before getting the recipe right. It was a triumph when my husband commented a few days ago, “It is delicious”. Until then, he loathed tapioca.
In India, tapioca is called sabu or sabudana. To add to the confusion, sago, which comes from another plant (Metroxylon) and cooks differently, goes by the same name. Tapioca and sago look alike. They are usually interchangable ingredients. I’ve seen countless recipes confusing them.
Tapioca is a starch extracted from cassava (Manihot esculenta). It is used worldwide as a thickening agent. It is gluten-free and low protein.
We use sabudana on Ekadasi and other days of fasting from grains. However, by adding green peas, fried carrot sticks, cauliflower bites, herbs and nuts, it turns into a colourful side dish at any meal.
The trick of preparing sabudana is to rinse tapioca well with cold water. It doesn’t have to soak. Rinsing will give it enough moisture to double or triple in size. Before cooking, it has to drain and dry. To mix it with roasted coconut and peanut powder before adding it to the pot, will aid the pearls to remain separate. Once in the pot, it doesn’t require cooking. It steams to perfection on the top of vegetables within a couple of minutes. If it comes in contact with too high heat, hot ghee or oil it will immediately turn into a sticky mass. Therefore, special attention is required when adding it to the pot.