Tapioca (Portuguese pronunciation: [tɐpiˈɔkɐ]) is a starch extracted from Manioc (Manihot esculenta). This species is native to the Northeast of but spread throughout the South American continent. The plant was spread by Portuguese and Spanish explorers to most of the West Indies, Africa and Asia, including the Philippines and Taiwan, being now cultivated worldwide.
In Brazil, the plant (cassava) is named “mandioca”, while its starch is called “tapioca”. The name tapioca is derived from the word tipi’óka, the name for this starch in the Tupí language, which was spoken by the natives when the Portuguese first arrived in the Northeast of Brazil. This Tupí word refers to the process by which the starch is made edible.
Look at the instructions on the package of tapioca that you buy. Some small pearl tapioca requires overnight soaking in water. If your package has that requirement, reduce the milk in the recipe to 2 1/2 cups from 3 cups.