By Harold McGee
Tapioca, derived from the root of a tropical plant known as manioc or cassava (Manihot esculenta,), is a root starch used mostly in puddings. It tends to form unpleasantly stringy associations in water and so is usually made into large pregelatinized pearls, which are then cooked only long enough to be softened. Because tapioca keeps well in the ground and is processed into starch within days of harvest, it doesn’t develop the strong aromas found in wheat and corn starches or in potato starch, which is typically extracted from long-stored, second-quality tubers. Tapioca starch is especially prized for its neutral flavor.