Derived from the cassava root, tapioca balls are processed, spherical pearls most often used as a thickening agent. The soft, chewy morsel rounds are the pivotal ingredient in desserts such as tapioca pudding and bubble tea, a sweet non-alcoholic confection popular with people of all ages. Although tapioca is also available in instant, or granulated, form, the more recognizable pearl form provides a chewy texture that is amenable to use in stews, gravies, pie fillings and sauces.
Bring 7 cups of water to boil in a large cooking pot.
Add the tapioca to the boiling water in a slow, but steady, stream until they rise to the top of the water and float.
Reduce the temperature to medium-low and place a lid on the pot. Continue to boil the tapioca for another 15 minutes, or until the pearls become translucent.
Drain the tapioca over a mesh strainer and rinse well with cool, running water. Use the cooked tapioca according to your recipe or cover and store the unused pearls in the refrigerator.
For an old-fashioned pudding, soak tapioca pearls in whole milk for 60 minutes. Whisk in eggs, sugar and vanilla and cook over medium heat until the tapioca is fully cooked.
You can color your tapioca pearls by soaking them overnight in assorted liqueurs, such as crème de menthe, dark rum or grenadine.