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Gilda Albuquerque makes tapioca at her stall at the Sé Church, Olinda. View full-size.

Antônio Cruz/ABr


In Brazil, the word tapioca refers to a kind of pancake made from manioc starch and water.

One way to make tapioca is to sprinkle the manioc starch with water and a dash of salt, then run the mixture through a sieve and spread some of it in a thin layer on a hot frying pan.

The heat causes the starch to gel and form a crumbly pancake. A topping is added - a traditional option would be coalho cheese and grated coconut. But variations include shredded sun-dried meat, bananas, or goiabada, for example. The tapioca is then folded and served.

Tapioca, like so many other recipes which use manioc, is a cultural legacy from Brazilian Indians and a staple of northeastern Brazil diet.

In the Northeast, tapioca is everywhere. But two of the most traditional places where you can try it are: the area in front of the Sé Church in Olinda, Pernambuco, where, on weekend afternoons and evenings, local women make tapioca at several stalls; and Centro das Tapioqueiras (85-3274-7565), in Fortaleza, Ceará.

Places like Café do Alto in Rio de Janeiro help spread the popularity of tapioca in Southeastern Brazil.


Pronunciation: ta-pi-AW-ca

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