Scientific name: Manihot esculenta
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Tapioca (Portuguese pronunciation: [tɐpiˈɔkɐ]) is a starch extracted from Manioc (Manihot esculenta). This species is native to Northern Brazil but spread throughout the South American continent. The plant was carried by Portuguese and Spanish explorers to most of the West Indies, and continents of Africa and Asia, including the Philippines and Taiwan; it is cultivated worldwide.
In Brazil, the plant (cassava) is named mandioca, while its starch is called tapioca. The name tapioca is derived from the word tipi'óka, its name in the Tupí language, which was spoken by the natives when the Portuguese first arrived in theNortheast of Brazil. This Tupí word refers to the process by which the cassava starch is made edible. As the food and word were taken to other areas, "tapioca" was also applied to similar preparations made with other esculents.
In the Philippines, tapioca is often confused with sago, as the sap of the sago palm is often part of its preparation. A coarsely granular substance obtained by heating, and thus partly changing, the moistened starch obtained from the roots of the cassava. It is much used in puddings and as a thickening for soups. In India, the term "tapioca-root" is used to represent the root of the plant (cassava), rather than the starch. It is widely named as "കപ്പ" (kappa) in Malayalam. InVietnam, it is called bột năng. In the past, the starch was extracted from Maranta arundinacea (Mì tinh, hoàng tinh). In Indonesia, it is called singkong. In Malaysia, it is called Ubi Kayu.
Tapioca is a staple food in some regions, and it is used worldwide as a thickening agent in various foods. It is a gluten-free food.