working in China, finding subsitutes and need suggestions

Joined Nov 12, 2010
i work in a Brazilian restaurant in Beijing China, and of course, I have had a lot of trouble with suppliers carrying the western ingredients I really need, especially when Brazilian food isn't recognized often here. I'm American myself, also just getting introduced to Brazilian pastry and breads through other Brazilian chefs - though they are not willing to share their advice on how they make-do with what ingredients they could find here.

So some of my problems and maybe some clever solutions if you have them- The first is for my recipe on Papa de Queso aka Cheese Bread, it uses specifically Tapioca/Yucca flour which is surprisingly hard to find here in China. Surprising because most Chinese markets are the suggested place to go if you need to buy it in the US.

Does anyone familiar with this recipe know a similiar alternative?

Also for my empadas they call for Heart of Palm which is non-existant here, also have any suggested alternatives? Ive never cooked with it so I'm clueless even as to their texture and taste.

thanks so much!


Kitchen Dork
Joined Jun 15, 2006
What is the function and purpose of the Tapioca/Yucca flour? If you know that, then you could figure out an alternative, or perhaps leave it out altogether. Perhaps in Brazil, the Tapioca/Yucca flour is something that cuts down on the gluten in the bread so it's not so chewy? If that's the case, you can substitute corn starch or perhaps even cake flour.

Regarding Hearts of Palm, if you can't get them, you can't get them. I can't think of any possible substitutions there. Since Hearts of Palm don't affect anything baking-wise, I'd suggest you just leave them out. By the way, are you talking about empadas or empanadas?


Staff member
Joined Mar 29, 2002
Tapioca starch should be available. Translate it under starch, not flour.  Hearts of palm remind me of a milder artichoke, which is probably also hard to get there.
Joined Nov 11, 2010
do they have fresh yucca? also called cassava? If so you grate it, squeeze out the water. cover with a damp cloth and let it ferment in a ball for at least 24 hrs.  you then rub the product between your hands and let it drop into the bowl and the starch in it is its own binder ...look up a jamaica recipe for BAMMY.. it's taken from Ghanian Foufou....they also use plantain flour a PINCH you can use cream of wheat? with a touch of rice cream, check in the baby cereal dept.. As for hearts of palm??? perhaps artichoke hearts will work, depends on recipe? Hope this helpes 
Joined Aug 6, 2010
I'm not a professional, and not supposed to post here, but there are a few things I think I can add. First, I have no idea where the term "papa de queso" came from. That's Spanish for cheese potato. The Brazilian cheese rolls you are talking about are called Pão de Queijo (pronounced pow jeh kay-zjoo) and are made with cassava flour (also called tapioca flour, tapioca starch, cassava starch), which gives them a very distinct flavor and texture. Correctly made Pão de Queijo should almost seem undercooked or chewy. Second, cassava and yucca are not even close to the same thing. If you find fresh cassava root, DO NOT try to eat it raw. Cassava root is the source of two very dangerous cyano toxins (think cyanide). Cornstarch would work in Pão de Queijo, but cassava (tapioca) flour is far superior in my experience.
Joined Nov 12, 2010
sorry, just some language errors - my brazilian boss refers empada as empanada, its just gotten to be habit - yes - i meant empanada and the heart of palm can be replaced by artichoke hearts! thank you for the suggestion, as im clueless what heart of palm is!

western cateering supermarkets wont carry much south american product but there is a great selection of imported canned goods from america.

as for the other laguage mistake, ha - right, i meant pao, not papa, i have another recipe for potato bread (pao de papa) so i can get them confused. another recipe that needs this tapioca flour!

im going to try using cornstarch but im still a bit skeptical - idaclaire, if I can find fresh yucca, but from tylerm saying cassava is not the same, you suppose your method will work the same?
Joined Nov 11, 2010
This stuff just fascinates me!  To claify what I can, there are 2 kinds of cassava  bitter and sweet . This ancient fermenting process is done to get the poisonous toxins out of the bitter cassava. .I believe there is now a hybrid variety , a cross between the 2,  sold in Us markets. I think this because the aftertase of the cassave in Us markets is so bitter. The bammy that is made from it in jamaica is chewy, mild, very slightly fermented tasting, very filling, and is eaten with fried fish in lieu of bread...SO much better!  Cornstarch can taste raw  if there isn't some preparation, it is a staple thickener. I have no personal experience with tapioca starch but want to know everything!  Will you post the correct name and your recipe for this dish once you have it down? I'd love to eat a Brazillian meal about now! 
Joined Oct 25, 2010
I use a lot of tapioca starch. I don't know what part of BJ you're in, but a lot of stores in Haidian have it. Look for 木薯淀粉.
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