Tapioca(Cassava) with onion chutney – “Kappa and Ulli chamanthi”

Steamed CassavaCassava or Yuca root , called as ‘Kappa’ in Malayalam, is widely grown in southern India especially in Kerala and thereby is a staple in Kerala cuisine.  Tapioca/Cassava is common in many other cuisines like South American and South Asian.  For folks who get confused between tapioca and Cassava, they both essentially refer to the same root vegetable, however, Cassava or Yuca is the vegetable in its natural form where as tapioca is referred to the products made from cassava such a tapioca starch or tapioca pearls. In India, though only the word tapioca is used for all the products. So less confusion there 🙂

For those who are not familiar with this root, it tastes a little bit like potato – starchy and soft texture but does have a typical flavor that is different from a potato. Here’s a pic of this vegetable for folks who have never seen it before so that next time you see it in your grocers, you will feel tempted to pick it up!

yuca picture

In Kerala, Kappa is served at breakfast or as a main course at lunch or dinner – pretty much anytime 🙂 Generally for a main meal, it is paired with either fish curry or beef curry.  But could also be served up with a simple fiery onion/red chili chutney which is an irresistible combination anytime of the day!

We usually get good cassava from our Asian supermarket. Chopping it can be a challenge if you do not follow the right technique. It’s skin is very hard but if you just hit it with a large knife just as a butcher would while butchering meat, it easily breaks apart. and then you can peel the outer covering using the knife and then further cut it into pieces. In kerala, generally these are cut as large chunks and steamed. Of course in my house, the hubby had the privilege of chopping it. Lucky me 🙂

And then the onion chutney! This one is again one of those pounding ones! You need to pull out your mortar and pestle for this one.

IMG_1972 IMG_1975The chutney gets its flavor from the pounding of the onion, garlic and red chillies. A slight tinge of tamarind and a drizzle of coconut oil! Just finger-licking good!

Linking to Throwback Thursday and Fiesta Friday. Your co-hosts this week at Fiesta Friday are Suzanne @ apuginthekitchen and Jess @ Cooking Is My Sport.

Kappa and Ulli Chamanthi Steamed Tapioca with onion chutney

Tapioca with onion chutney (Kappa and Ulli chamanthi)

  • Servings: Serves 4-6
  • Time: about 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
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For the Kappa

14-18 pieces of Kappa or Cassava (about 2 medium size)

1/2 cup water

1 1/4 tsp salt


Place the cut kappa pieces in a cooking pot with the water and salt. Place pot on medium heat until the water starts boiling. immediately turn heat to medium and cover the pot with a lid (leaving a small vent open for steam to escape). Cook for about 5-7 minutes until kappa turns soft and is cooked.


  • If there is extra water after the kappa is cooked, just drain it.
  • If all water is drained and kappa is still hard and not cooked, add a little bit more water.
  • You could also steam the Kappa pieces in a steamer.

Ulli Chamanthi (onion chutney)

  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped pearl onions or red onions
  • 2-3 dry red chillies (depending upon how much hot you like)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tiny nickel size piece of kodampuli* dissolved in 2 tbsp warm water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • extra coconut oil to drizzle


In a small heating pan, heat the oil. Add the onions and the garlic and fry for 1-2 minutes until garlic is toasted. Add the dry red chillies and again sauce for 1 more minute (do not burn the red chillies). Turn heat off.

In a mortar and pestle or a chopper, crush all3 together – onion, garlic and chillies. Add salt and kodampuli(tamarind) water and again pound to get thick chunky mixture. (should NOT be paste). Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with coconut oil before serving.


*: I use Kodampuli and not tamarind. Kodampuli is a type of sour fruit found in kerala – check my glossary page for more information and is considered beneficial in ayurveda. So I am guessing it should be ok for ‘paleo’ too . However you can replace with lemon juice if you cannot get either.


Kappa and Ulli Chamanthi


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