Also known as
Araru, Araruta, Indian arrowroot.
The arrowroot plant is native to the tropics of South America. Technically derived as the edible starch from a rhizome of Maranta species, it has roots which date as early as 7000 years ago. The Arawak Indians called it the Aru-aru (meal of meals). The Arawaks used the substance to draw out toxins from people wounded by poison arrows. Its name is thought to be derived from that practice. It has a long history of cultivation by native peoples, who developed an extensive treatment process for extracting the usable arrowroot powder from the roots. The roots are washed, scraped, beaten, soaked, pulped, and finally forced through a sieve. The liquid and fine powders which make it through the sieve are dried, leaving the useful arrowroot powder behind.
In India, arrowroot is commonly called Kooya with sizes ranging from 2 feet to 5 feet and colour which may be white to purplish. The underground stem of the plant is the edible portion which yields flour. As such arrowroot has no flavour. It is a fine white powder, with a feel very similar to that of cornstarch.
How to select
In some stores, arrowroot is sold as arrowroot flour. The powder should be fine and white, similar to cornstarch. Some manufacturers adulterate arrowroot with other starches (like potato starch), so ensure that you are purchasing pure arrowroot, since these other starches may behave differently in the kitchen. In some stores, arrowroot can be found in the form of fresh whole root, labeled as Tse Goo or the Chinese potato. The powder should be odourless when dry, but emit a faint odour when mixed with boiling water.
· The starch is primarily used as a thickener in many foods such as puddings and sauces. Since it is extremely bland, it is suitable for neutral diets.
· The powder should be mixed with a cool liquid before being introduced to a recipe, and it should be added towards the end, since overcooking can destroy the gelling properties of arrowroot. Once the mixture thickens, remove immediately to prevent thinning Arrowroot thickens at lower temperatures unlike thickeners made with flour or cornstarch. Unlike many starches, arrowroot turns clear as it sets, and will not interrupt the color of dishes it is included in.
· The whole root can be used in recipes too. The papery layer should be peeled off before the root is boiled or fried. Thus, it can be used as chips seasoned with salt and flavoured with spices.
· Use it in the bakery as a thickening agent for fruit pie fillings and glazes. It is also used in preparation of arrowroot cookies. It makes shimmering fruit gels.
· It is also used in the preparation of homemade ice cream since it aids in prevention of formation of ice crystals.
· 1 tsp of Arrowroot can be substituted for 1 tbsp of flour, 2 tsp of Arrowroot can be substituted for 1 tbsp of cornstarch.
· Korean cuisine uses arrowroot in form of noodles. Other oriental cuisines also use it for thickening acidic foods such as sweet and sour sauce etc.
· Lack of gluten in arrowroot flour makes it useful as a replacement for wheat flour in baking.
How to store
Store the rhizomes in refrigerated conditions till use. If arrowroot is processed to make flour, store the flour in an air-tight container, free from humidity.
· History has it that mashed rhizomes were used on wounds which arised due to poisoned arrows. Spider bites etc to halt gangrene. It was also supposed to be freshly juiced, mixed with water and used as an antidote to problems arising due to vegetable poisoning.
· It is said to relieve stomach disorders, especially for bowel complaints in convalescents.
· Like other pure starches, however, arrowroot is almost pure carbohydrate and devoid of protein, thus it does not equal wheat flour nutritionally.