Many many moons ago, while taking an Archaeology of South America course in university, we learned about a “strange but wondrous” (not my words) root that is one of the main starch staples of South America: the manioc root. While in Fortaleza, I finally got to experience first hand what all the fuss was about.
Also known as yuca or cassava, manioc is often ground into a white flour and used in making tapiocas. Tapioca is a treat specific to Northern Brazil; and, even for some of my co-workers from the South, it was their first time eating tapioca.
In the morning it is common to see a line up of people at the tapioca counter waiting for fried manioc stuffed with cheese. A couple of scoops of manioc from the bowl above go into the frying pan, in a few minutes it’s rubbery and waiting to be rolled with filling.
My personal preference was for banana and cinnamon.
The best tapioca of the trip was a coconut version made at the Santa Clara Cafe at the Dragão do Mar Center. More doughy than chewy, it was the perfect combination of manioc flour and coconut.