Dried tapioca pearls are hard, round little balls of starch.
Tapioca pearls have grown in popularity in recent years as photos of Taiwanese bubble tea invaded our social media feeds. The spheres floating in these drinks are indeed tapioca pearls made translucent and chewy thanks to boiling. Lush, however, usually use them dry and raw.
Starch balls have been used for centuries in the traditional cuisine of many countries in Southeast Asia. They were traditionally made from the starch of the sago palm or other native plants until Manihot esculenta was introduced to the Asian continent. Also known as cassava, manioc, or yuka, this tropical plant from South and Central America produces a starchy root from which tapioca flour is extracted.