Not all pearls are tapioca, and not all tapioca is pearled. But what we think of as tapioca pudding, and what’s being used here, is small pearl tapioca.
The extracted starch of the cassava root, powdered tapioca can used as a thickening agent or to make crackers or anywhere else you’d use a starch. When we take that starch, get it damp, and pass it through a sieve under pressure, it forms pearl-like shapes; large pearl tapioca ends up in bubble tea and small pearl tapioca ends up in tapioca puddings and recipes like this.
From a box sold in Columbiaville, Michigan.
Small Pearl Dessert
3/4 t. salt
5 c. water
1/2 c. + 1 T. [small pearl tapioca]
1 3-oz. strawberry Jell-o
1 c. sugar
1 c. pineapple tidbits (drained)
1 large frozen whipped topping
Boil water with salt. Cook tapioca 15 minutes. Add Jell-o and sugar. Cool till thick (overnight if necessary).
Add Cool-Whip. When ready to serve adds bananas.