Tapioca Pearls & Potato Cakes with Tomato Chutney

Tapioca pearls & potato cakes

Its been a while since I’ve done an Indian recipe here. So today’s post is this vegan, Indian recipe for a delicious appetizer. More commonly known as sabudana vada, this is a street food which originates from the western part (Maharashtra) of India. Its usually served with a spicy green chutney (just like any other street food in India), but since I am not a big fan of that I served it with a very versatile tomato chutney. I call it versatile because not very long ago I made this same chutney and added potatoes in it and then served it over couscous for dinner. It was delicious. So even if you decide to not try the cakes (for whatever crazy reason) – you MUST try the chutney…it is really Yum!

I did two variations of the cakes – one is where tapioca is mixed in the dough and the other one where I also put tapioca on the outside (see note below). Adding tapioca on the outside gives an extra crunchy coating to the cake and also adds more tapioca flavor. I also like the way it looks – with white pearls stuck around the cake. You can buy tapioca at any Indian store or you could try the Asian stores as well. In India its called Sabudana (in Hindi) or Sago. The dry pearls are sold in a bag and before using it for anything, you need to soak it for a couple of hours. After soaking they double in quantity – so before making any recipe with tapioca pearls – make sure to check whether the measurement is for dried tapioca or soaked.

I put peanuts in the dough (which can be skipped if you are allergic to it and can also be replaced by any other nut that does not make you feel all weird). It would be nice to put some kind of nuts in the dough as it adds a lot of character to a very soft tasting cake. The cakes are starchy but once you fry them, it completely changes the texture. Try this recipe – Indian street food is so diverse & mind blowing  and so are these cakes. Yum yum!

Tomato Chutney

Tapioca Pearls

Tapioca pearls & potato cakes 01

Tapioca pearls & potato cakes 02

Serving 11 to 12 cakes/patties

Cooking time 45 minutes


For the cakes

1 cup dry tapioca pearls, soaked in water for a couple of hours

3 potatoes – boiled, peeled and grated

1 small red onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts

1 tsp of finely chopped green chili

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1/4 cup fresh coriander, finely chopped


vegetable or canola oil for frying

  1. Drain the tapioca pearls in a colander. Let it sit for a few minutes, you want to get rid of all the excess water.
  2. Add peanuts in a ziplock bag and crush roughly with the help of a rolling pin.
  3. In a large bowl add grated potatoes along with everything else including tapioca pearls.
  4. Mix with your hand to form a smooth dough with everything well incorporated. The dough will be soft but sticky.
  5. Taste the dough to adjust seasoning.
  6. Clean your hands and rub some vegetable oil between your palms before you start making the cakes. Since the dough is sticky, this will help it from sticking onto your palms. You might have to repeat this step in between of making the cakes.
  7. Divide the dough into 12 small balls. Flatten each ball in between your palms and keep aside on a plate.
  8. Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the cakes on medium low till they turn golden on both sides.

Note: A variation for these cakes is when you stick the tapioca pearls on the outside. To do that, just keep some soaked tapioca aside before adding it to the dough. Once you have the cake flattened – before frying, just roll it on the extra tapioca so that it sticks on both sides.  

For tomato chutney

4 large tomatoes

2 to 3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp tomato puree

1/2 tsp dried ground red chili


1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

1/2 fresh mint, roughly chopped

  1. Mark an “x” shape at the bottom of the tomatoes with the help of a sharp knife. Boil water in a deep pan and place the tomatoes in the boiling water. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Remove from the water and let cool. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel its skin and roughly dice the tomatoes. You need the seeds and juice that will come out of the tomatoes.
  2. Add oil to a saucepan and warm up on medium low.
  3. Add garlic and on low heat cook the garlic slowly – you want its flavor to be infused in the oil.
  4. Once the garlic becomes fragrant, add tomatoes and stir.
  5. Add chili and salt, mix well.
  6. Cover and cook the chutney for about 5 minutes on medium low heat. Add tomato puree and cook for another couple of minutes.
  7. Uncover and add the herbs and mix. Depending on the kind of tomatoes you use, you will have to see whether you need to cook the chutney more or not. It should be thick and not watery.
  8. Taste to adjust the seasoning.