Made from the starch of the cassava root, gluten-free tapioca flour is often used in Asian dumplings and as a thickening agent in fruit compotes, stews and stir-fries; it can be substituted for wheat flour or cornstarch. Tapioca flour is a truly global ingredient: in Africa it's made into sticky dough fufu, in Central America cassava bread, and it's also in the eyeball-sized "pearls" in bubble tea.
This simple veggie stir-fry is similar to those in most Chinese restaurants, but instead of pasty cornstarch it uses sweet tapioca flour. The secret to making a perfect stir-fry is to have all the ingredients chopped and ready to cook in advance. Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add 3 cloves minced garlic, 1/2-inch peeled and slivered ginger and 2 thinly sliced shallots, and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add 2 thinly sliced carrots cut on the diagonal and 1 head of broccoli, sectioned lengthwise, and stir-fry another 2 minutes. Seed and roughly chop 1 red bell pepper, add it to the wok with a handful of snow peas and stir-fry another 2 minutes. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon each of water, low-sodium soy sauce and tapioca flour, then add to the wok, stirring until the sauce thickens. Serve with rice or chow mein noodles.