Monday, February 17, 2014

Kerala Mashed Tapioca

Kappa Vevichathu / Puzhukku - My Version

Tapioca (Kappa/Kolli/Kizhangu/Poola/Cheeni) is a staple food of a common Keralite. Back in Kerala, Tapioca is called a poor man's food, but all malayalies regardless of how rich or poor, love it. Some have it plainly boiled and others have it combined with coconut and turmeric (like how we'll be making it now) and yet others combine meat with it. When boiled plainly, it's eaten with a chilli and tamarind chutney.. Mmmm.. I love it.. the added pleasure of a cup of black coffee and a rainy day.. :) I'll post the recipe of the chutney soon. When made the following way, vegetarians can eat it as it is. Non-veg Malayalies like it with Fish curry (refer to recipe) and it's a delicacy in Kerala.

If you notice, most dishes in Kerala have coconut added in them. Well, it is said that the name Kerala or Keralam derived from the Sanskrit word Kera, which means coconut. The land of coconuts :) You will see coconut trees in every nook and corner in Kerala. Maybe so, coconut or coconut oil is an inevitable part of Kerala cuisine.

Ingredients :

Tapioca / Kappa

1 kg
Grated fresh coconut

1 and 1/2 cups
Shallots (large)

5-6 nos.

3-4 cloves
Green chillies

2 nos.
Cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon
Turmeric powder

1/4 teaspoon

For Tempering :

Coconut oil

1-2 tablespoon
Mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon
Curry leaves

2 stem

2-3 nos.
Dried red chilli

5-6 nos.

1/3 cup

To taste.

Buying fresh tapioca may seem like a challenge. For me it did when I bought them the first few times. Pick the ones that aren't overly dried. If they still have the smell of soil on them, well and good. I pick small and medium sized ones and I've never gone wrong that way.

How to peal and clean tapioca :

Follow the picture below. Cut the top and bottom of the tapioca off. Then cut into two. Tapioca has two layers of skin. The top brown, thin layer and then a pink and white thick inner layer. We have to remove both. For that, make an incision through both the layers of the skin. Slowly peal the skin by separating it with the knife. If your tapioca isn't to dry it will come off easily and you will get a clean piece.

There'll still be lots of mud on the cleaned pieces so rinse it thoroughly until there's not even a speck of mud left.

Strain the water off and dice into small piece.

Dicing tapioca is not usually done on a cutting board. Gently strike with the knife and break it off. Go around until you get all the flesh out and you are left with the inner thick fibre. Throw away the fiber.

Preparation Method :

Into boiling water, throw in the diced tapioca. Do not add salt. Adding salt slows down the cooking process.

Bring to a boil, close with a lid, bring down heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes. after 10 minutes check if its cooked. When you press with your finger it should be soft yet firm enough.  

The cooking time of tapioca varies. So there's no hard and fast rule on the time.
Once it is cooked, drain it and roughly rinse with water and leave to strain. Draining tapioca is essential. I learnt that from my mistake. The first time I made tapioca, I thought it was as easy as boiling tapioca, adding the ground coconut mixture to it and then tempering. So I didn't refer with anyone and I ended up with a pot full of bitter, inedible 'Mistake' ;) Thanks to my mom for telling me where exactly I went wrong :) It's good to learn from mistakes :)

In northern Kerala they do not add coconut. But, I like this southern version better.
Coarsely grind 1 cup coconut, the shallots, garlic, green chillies and fennel powder.

In a wok, heat coconut oil. Crackle the mustard seeds. Throw in the shallots, curry leaves, dried red chilli and sauté for a minute.

Add the ground coconut mixture. Adding this at this stage will allow the garlic and shallots to slightly cook. Add the 1/2 cup of grated coconut and add the turmeric powder. Some people add turmeric while grinding the coconut. But that's ok if your grinder is steel or glass. Mine is plastic and the turmeric leaves yellow stains.

Combine everything together well and roast for 2 minutes on medium-low.
Then pour in 1 and 1/2 cups of hot water, add salt to taste and allow to simmer on low heat for a minute.

Then add the strained tapioca and combine well on low heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, occasionally stirring.  If you aren't using a non-stick pan, beware of it sticking onto the bottom of the pan. Once all the water has been absorbed and the tapioca has been coated well with the coconut mixture and the tapioca has heated up completely, turn off the flame. Cover with a lid, and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Your Kappa Vevichathu is ready :)

Do not forget to leave your valuable feedback, results, comments, queries, suggestions or criticisms below!


  1. this world getting smaller ? :)

  2. That's completely new version of cooking tapioca....would have tasted yum with all those ingredients....Glad to find your blog...

    1. Its the Kerala style of cooking tapioca :) Try it with the Kerala fish curry! You will love it! :)


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