Tapioca pearls (known as sabudana in India) are made from the root of either the cassava or yuca plant. In appearance, they are very small white opaque balls resembling pearls (hence the name). When cooked they turn translucent with a soft and slightly chewy texture. Sabudana comes in various sizes, but for this specific recipe the smaller sizes work well.
This Maharashtrian dish is commonly eaten for breakfast, lunch or even as a snack or light meal during tea time. It is especially eaten during fasting days as it adheres to specific Hindu fasting rules (except that the onions are omitted in the recipe if used during fasting).
Tapioca is easily available in most large supermarkets (in the Asian section) and most definitely in any Asian or Indian grocery store.
SABUDANA CHI KHICHIDI (Tapioca Pilaf)
2 cups sabudana (tapioca pearls)
1 small onion, small dice
1 medium potato, small cubes
2-3 green chilies, slit in half lengthwise
4-5 curry leaves
1½ cups roasted unsalted peanuts, coarsely ground
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt, to taste
1 tbsp ghee (butter or oil such as vegetable or canola)
juice of ½ lime or lemon
a few tbsps of milk
freshly chopped cilantro leaves
In a large bowl, add 1½ cup of water to the tapioca pearls and gently mix. Cover with a large plate and check after 3 hours. The tapioca should be softened but not mushy. If they are still hard, add another ½ cup to 1 cup of water and repeat. Check periodically, each pearl should be soft to the touch then it is ready to use.
In a large deep skillet on medium high heat, add the ghee or oil. When hot, add the cumin seeds. After a minute or so, add the green chilies and the curry leaves Stir and add the onions. When the onions have slightly browned, add the potatoes. Stir well to coat the potatoes, cover, reduce the heat to low and let cook for about 4-5 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Now add the tapioca pearls and stir well to combine all of the ingredients. Lastly, add the salt, peanuts and lime (or lemon juice). Mix well and sprinkle a little milk over the top. Cover, reduce the heat and let cook for 5-6 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve with yogurt and Indian pickles.