Mumbai food: Why not try a risotto or cup of tea laced with tapioca pearls?

By  Anju Maskeri and Kusumita Das | Mumbai | Posted  18-Jun-2017

It's easy to confuse sago with tapioca. Both are typically round, small, dry and opaque. When soaked and cooked, both become larger, translucent, soft and spongy. The only difference, however, is that while sago is made from palm tree starch, tapioca pearls are extracted from the starch of a plant named cassava. While the sago or sabudana continues to make it to our plates as delish khichdi and sinfully deep fried vadas, it's the counterpart that seems to have taken the fancy of city chefs.

"Tapioca is the new super-root. It contains vitamin B-complex, including pantothenic acid, folate, and B6, as well as iron, manganese, calcium, copper, and selenium," says chef Prasad Parab of BKC resto-pub, Dishkiyaaon. "And because it's bland, it can take on any flavour. Moreover, it's healthy and cheap, which makes it accessible to the common man," says chef Jerson Fernandes of Juhu's Jeon.

To dig deeper, we pan out to city restaurants to discover innovative dishes where tapioca is the biggest draw.


Rs 450. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Chef Husna Jumani, who has curated the dessert menu at Ballard Estate's The Clearing House, was inspired by the mango sticky rice and wanted to create something on similar lines. "But, I knew guests would not appreciate rice in their dessert, having had a full meal. So, I chose to opt for tapioca," says the 23-year-old. For the dish, the tapioca globules are soaked overnight and then cooked with butter and coconut milk. "Overcooked tapioca can be quite unpleasant. It's best to soak and keep, and use as and when required. Even before serving, we add the coconut milk and condensed milk, so that the flavours seep through." The dish is served with fresh mango, black sesame shortbread and lemon yoghurt sorbet. It has varied textures - the chewiness from the tapioca, the creaminess of the custard, the crunch of the shortbread and the bitterness from black sesame, all of it balanced by the sweetness of the mango. She says, "The base is the tapioca pudding, the rest are just toppings. It makes for a refreshing summer dessert, completely gluten-free. Since mangoes are seasonal, we'll serve it only till the end of this month."


Rs 295. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar

Tapioca Beetroot Risotto at Hitchki
At Hitchki, it's the norm to give traditional Indian dishes a quirky makeover. When chef Ajay Thukar was crafting the Kala Ghoda restaurant menu, he felt it was time to look beyond sabudana wada and khichdi, and present tapioca in a novel way. The result was a bloody red dish called tapioca beetroot risotto. "Tapioca is a popular fasting item. Not many Indians are familiar with its versatility," he says. In the dish, the beetroot is marinated with whole ground spices and roasted in a tandoor to lend it a smokey flavour. "We then puree the beetroot and use it as a base sauce to the tapioca. After adding ginger and garlic, we garnish it with peanut powder - it complements tapioca best." He, however, admits that the idea was not to create a healthy dish, but something unusual. "It's not the most popular dish, but it's got a loyal following."


Rs 499

Tapioca chaat at Jeon
Mumbai rains might be synonymous with hot pakodas, but at Juhu's Jeon, they have been replaced by an edgier option - the tapioca chaat served with tapioca chips. "Since it is tapioca season, we thought of having a whole festival around it," says chef Jerson Fernandes. While the menu offers tapioca khatiya khadi (an assortment of tapioca canapes) and tapioca mango mousse, we were piqued by the tapioca bhel served in a paani puri, with kokum shots. "The tapioca is tossed with onions, tomatoes and coriander. What sets it apart is the special masala we prepare using roasted cumin powder, chaat masala (in-house), turmeric, fennel powder, dry ginger and mango powder," he says. While the taste is chatpata, it tilts towards the spicier side.


Rs 350

Kerala Tapioca Masala at Dishkiyaaon
Taking off from the Kerala delicacy, by the same name, the Kappa Biryani, however is not a biryani, as it doesn't contain rice. The rice has been replaced by tapioca globules. The dish, originally meant to be served with beef, is now served with mutton. "The tapioca is boiled and tossed with the masalas, along with the pre-cooked mutton. We also use grated coconut. There's a strong kick of garlic and ginger too. It is made on the messier side, using the elements of a biryani, and turning the concept on its head," says Khar restaurant and bar, SamBar, owner Pragnesh Rai, adding that it is a bestseller.

Interestingly, the team has come up with a sneaky solution for tapioca that might get over-cooked. "That happens sometimes, when we overshoot the temperature or duration. In that case, we add them to the masala kappa, another tapioca based dish. It works beautifully, because in that dish, the tapioca is mashed, put together in patties and fried," Rai says.


Rs 350

Kappa Biryani at SamBar
Taking off from the Kerala delicacy, by the same name, the Kappa Biryani, however is not a biryani, as it doesn't contain rice. The rice has been replaced by tapioca globules. The dish, originally meant to be served with beef, is now served with mutton. "The tapioca is boiled and tossed with the masalas, along with the pre-cooked mutton. We also use grated coconut. There's a strong kick of garlic and ginger too. It is made on the messier side, using the elements of a biryani, and turning the concept on its head," says Khar restaurant and bar, SamBar, owner Pragnesh Rai, adding that it is a bestseller.

Interestingly, the team has come up with a sneaky solution for tapioca that might get over-cooked. "That happens sometimes, when we overshoot the temperature or duration. In that case, we add them to the masala kappa, another tapioca based dish. It works beautifully, because in that dish, the tapioca is mashed, put together in patties and fried," Rai says.


Rs 260

Tagu Pyian at Burma Burma
Tagu Pyian is a Burmese festive dish prepared during Maha Thingyan or water festival that marks their New Year. However, at Burma Burma in Fort, it's been a permanent fixture on the menu since its inception three years ago. "We have remained true to the traditional method of preparing the dessert," chef Ansab Khan tells us. Tagu Pyian is coconut pannacota served with tapioca cooked in palm jaggery. "While the pannacota is prepared using coconut milk, the sago is cooked in palm jaggery imported from Burma," he says, adding that one can also use ing local palm jaggery. The dish is for those who don't like their desserts too sweet.


Rs 150

Taro Bubble Tea with Tapioca Bubbles
Even as the bubble tea continues to be a mainstay at Dr Bubbles, the tapioca bubbles tea is a different ballgame altogether. And that is because of tapioca globules, as chef Adnan Sarkar explains. "They have a chewy texture and therefore need to be treated with care. This drink was an experiment to begin with. The tapioca balls are boiled for 20 minutes, to make them soft, but not too soft, because they are put in a drink." The tea is served cold. Since the globules are boiled and then put in iced tea, they harden up quickly. "So, the drink needs to be consumed in 10 minutes," Sarkar says.

While it may not be the most popular drink they serve, it certainly enjoys a loyal set of patrons. "These are people who specially call to ask if it is available. It's an acquired taste, you warm up to it only having outgrown the predictable, sweet stuff. It's a heavyset drink, its taste and texture is far from what you associate with tea, thanks to the tapioca globules."

Trending Videos

Watch Video: Mystery over model and TV host Sonika Chauhan's death?

 

Download the new mid-day android app to get updates on all the latest and trending stories on the go https://goo.gl/8Xlcvr

RELATED NEWS