Oct 18, 2012

What is Sabudana or Tapioca

Tapioca is basically a root starch derived from the cassava, or yuca plant. In western countries, 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.

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.

How is Tapioca made
To make tapioca, the root is pulped and washed to leave the usable starch behind. The starch is heated so that individual granules will burst, and the resulting paste is reformed into a powder, flake, or pearl form. Tapioca powder is used for things like jellies and pudding, since it dissolves well in warm water. The flakes are also used for similar applications, while the pearls are usually used whole in foods like pearl milk tea.

The flavor of tapioca is fairly neutral, making it an excellent choice of thickener for both sweet and savory foods. Tapioca also has little nutritional value. The limited nutritional value of cassava root in general has caused historical problems, especially among peoples who rely on it for a major source of nutrition. As a supplement to other foods, however, cassava is quite useful. In addition to being grown in South America, the root is also cultivated in Africa and Asia for an assortment of uses.

Classic tapioca pudding is made with whole pearls of tapioca, which lend a texture to an otherwise smooth or bland pudding. The pearls become chewy and resilient when cooked, and this property is also harnessed to make boba or pearl milk tea, a popular Asian beverage. Pearl milk tea is made with large pearls of tapioca, mixed with fruit juice or tea, a sweetener, and milk. A specialized straw allows the drinker to suck up the large pearls along with the beverage.

In India, its also known as javvari in a few places. These small pearl, white balls are extracted from the pith of the sago palm. When cooked they turn from their opaque white color to translucent, and become soft and spongy. It is most commonly used in fasting dishes such as sabudana khichdi, when devout Hindus neglect from eating meats and poultry. In South India they are used to make small pappadam wafers called sabudhana poha.

Nutritional Value
Tapioca is low on nutritional value, but it can add some vital minerals to your meal.
Tapioca is short on vitamin content, however, according to NutritionData, a website that imparts nutritional information from the USDA, it does contains some B vitamins. Folate (vitamin B9) is the highest concentrated B vitamin, with 1 cup of tapioca, containing 6.1 mcg, or 2 percent of the daily value (DV). Folate is an important vitamin, but according to the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements, it is especially vital for pregnant women or those who may become pregnant, as it is important in the formation of new cells and in preventing birth defects. That is not 1 cup of tapioca "pudding," but 1 cup of pure tapioca, so the pudding, or another tapioca dish, will have less than that. Along with folate, 1 cup of tapioca contains a trace of pantothenic acid, choline and vitamin B6.

Tapioca makes up for its lack of vitamin content by providing several minerals, the most prevalent of which is iron. One cup of tapioca contains 2.4 mg of iron, which is 13 percent of the DV. Calcium is available at 30.4 mg, which is 3 percent of the DV. Other important minerals, in lesser amounts, in tapioca are magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium.

Video of how Sago/Sabudana/Tapioca is made:

Essential Fatty Acids
While the amount may be small, tapioca is a source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. According to the Linus Pauling Institute, fatty acids cannot be synthesized within the human body, which is why they must be consumed from dietary sources. One cup of tapioca contains 1.5 mg of omega-3 acids, and 3 mg of omega-6 fatty acids. Tapioca does not contain any other fat. 
If you are watching your calorie intake, you may want to avoid tapioca products. One cup contains a whopping 544 calories, and 135 g of carbohydrates.
Find many Sabudana/Tapioca based fasting dishes here.

P.S. The video is shared from a Youtube channel. Thanks Youtube for making it fun!


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