Tapioca pearls have to be one of my favorite ingredients in the pastry kitchen. I really love the versatility they give to a dish. They can impart a great deal of flavor as well as add a unique texture to your desserts. Tapioca is a starch derived from the cassava plant. The starch is then broken down into: powders, flakes, sticks, meal, and pearls. Tapioca pearls being the most common of the commercial starch. All of the forms powders, pearls etc. must be rehydrated before being cooked. When you begin to cook your tapioca pearls they will begin to absorb the moisture and begin to swell. After a few minutes they will begin to get very sticky and "snotty". I have found it very useful to rinse the gelatinous mixture from the pearls through a china cap with warm water, add the rinsed pearls back to your pot with your desired cooking liquid and cook over low heat stiring constantly. The tapioca pearls will become more and more translucent as they finish cooking. I always like to give them a taste to check there doneness. I usually pull them from the heat when there is a small spec of white in the middle of the pearl. You may want to cook them longer or shorter depending on your desired end result. Below are a few pics of some different sizes of tapioca pearls as well as a few of my favorite dishes that include tapioca pearls. Not in any specific order listed from the top picture down.....Oysters and Pearls- The French Laundry (not a dessert, but probably the best two bites I have ever put in my mouth), Pink Lady Apple Sorbet Set- The French Laundry, and Bubble Gum Shooter- Alinea.