October 19th, 2010
My friend Olivia took me to Tia Maria – Tapioca House, a Brazilian restaurant in Vauxhall, last night. The house speciality is the tapioca and it’s probably the only place in Britain selling them. Tapioca itself is a starch extracted from a plant root (generally from South America) and commonly known as cassava.
Tia Maria’s tapiocas are made from cassava starch mixed with water, to form an elastic dough. The dough is cooked in a circular shape, like a crêpe and similarly, they are cooked dry in a frying pan or on a griddle. A filling is added to the tapioca, like that of an omelette, taco or crêpe – it’s folded and served hot. A typical filling might be goats cheese and caramelised onion, which is what I had.
The texture of a tapioca (see above picture) is like that of a cake or desert, soft and spongy, but the flavour is like a savoury dough. The sponge texture works very well with hot cheese and onion.
Another speciality of Tia Maria, which I had to have, when I saw someone else eating them, is chicken hearts. A large plate of hearts is served with fried onion, salad and farofa, a seasoned, toasted, flour mixture (I believe this one contained cassava), which you dip the hearts into. The hearts had a delicious savoury flavour, and the farofa gave them a slight crunchy texture. The chef/owner, also gave me some minute, red, pickled, chilli peppers (pimenta malagueta), on the side, for a potent, hot, kick.
The food was great and I’d definitely go back. Tia Maria is in a little parade of Portuguese and Brazilian shops and restaurants, 9a Victoria House, South Lambeth Road, SW8 1QT. From Wednesday to Sunday they have live Brazilian music.