The Pure Versatility of Arrowroot
Arrowroot is a starch powder that is nutritious and very lightweight. It has gained a considerable following in the past decades as gluten-free cooking has become desirable, or necessary, for many people, but it is gaining a loyal following for its unique ability to adapt to a wide variety of cooking styles.
Arrowroot has its history in the Arawak, a people native to South America and the Caribbean. It had medicinal and nutritional value for them and was considered a dietary staple which could fulfill all basic nutritional needs.
Today, arrowroot is used in jellies, jams, and, increasingly, as a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour, and one which is more neutral in flavor than rice flower; it is a quiet master of its kitchen milieu, imparting no unwanted flavors, broadly relevant as a replacement for wheat flour, and cooking clearly and purely.
Cooking with Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder is appreciated for its lack of flavor, and for a cooking characteristic which sets it apart from its cousin, cornstarch. Unlike cornstarch, arrowroot doesn’t become opaque when heated, so it does not give a cloudy appearance to culinary dishes, leaving sauces, gravies, and stocks as appealingly clear as they are untouched by the flavor of the thickening agent.
Arrowroot powder also liquefies at a lower temperature, increasing its usage potential further. It sets quickly, and is more resistant to overheating; it also has twice the thickening potential of wheat flour, making it an appealing choice even to cooks unrestricted by gluten-free cooking styles.
Before heating, arrowroot powder is typically mixed with water to make a slurry. The pre-mixture prevents it from ‘clumping up’ when cooked.
Arrowroot powder makes deliciously light cookies, English-style digestive biscuits, and it imparts a lightness and delicacy to pastries unmatchable with wheat flour. It is also used in the making of clear noodles in Vietnam and Thailand, so chances are the next order of pad thai you scarf down features noodles made with this versatile and nutritionally potent powder.
History and Origin of Arrowroot Powder
Today Arrowroot is a starch used in baking and as a non-clouding thickening agent, but thousands of years ago it was a dietary staple much like rice, potatoes, or other foods rich in complex carbohydrates. In the language of the Arawaks of South America and the Caribbean, arrowroot is aru-aru, which means ‘meal of meals’, but its name may also arise from its medicinal use: drawing the poison out of arrow wounds.
Arrowroot made its way to Britain at about the same time as another starchy tuber staple from South America, the potato. But their paths diverged, as arrowroot quickly became the preferable option for baking and thickening.
These days, arrowroot is well-known in contemporary times as the go-to replacement for wheat flour when gluten-free cooking is desired. But its hardy versatility in the kitchen and the lightness of its texture and body has convinced many chefs and cooks of its unique potential.
Cultivation of Arrowroot
Arrowroot is as forgiving regarding its growing conditions as it is when it comes to the stockpot. Commercial arrowroot represents a wide variety of the genus Maranta, and is grown in Asia, Africa, and the West Indies. The best arrowroot comes from Europe.
Arrowroot plants usually grow to up to five feet in height and bear many leaves and small white flowers. The tubers are harvested ahead of the plant’s dormant phase when they are packed with starch.
Our Arrowroot Powder
Our arrowroot powder is sourced from France, where it has long been a ‘secret weapon’ of some of the country’s most notable sauciers and pastry chefs.
Unlike other brands and companies, Burma Spice carefully selects its arrowroot powder and makes sure it is 100% arrowroot; it is not uncommon for arrowroot to be adulterated with less-expensive tapioca, potato powder, or cornstarch.