Bamya, or Arabic Okra Stew, is one of the popular dishes in the Middle East. There aren’t many spices in this dish, yet it is flavorful and considered a light dinner. There are easy steps to follow and simple ingredients to prepare. You can enjoy this stew with Vermicelli Rice or Pita bread.
Bamya or Bamiah is the Arabic word for Okra and has a mild taste. The stew is cooked with lamb or beef and rarely with chicken. It is well-liked in Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, and Greece. Every country has its version, but the Okra stew recipe I’m sharing with you today is more Lebanese and has a good number of garlic that adds a hint of sweetness.
There aren’t many dishes made with Okra in the Middle East, and this is the only recipe that comes to mind when you mention Bamya. Although the recipe I’m sharing here has lamb, I will also show you how to make a vegetarian version in the variation section below.
❤️ WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS DISH
- It is easy to make – There are two steps to making Bamya, and both are super easy.
- The stew tastes heavenly – The delicious flavor of this stew is different than any other stew you ever made.
- Light dinner – I love this stew because it will not make you feel heavy and bloated.
Okra – I have used frozen baby okra. There is no need to thaw it.
Lamb meat – small lamb meat cubes to make this stew melt in your mouth.
Garlic – No chopping and no mincing. I have used whole cloves. The garlic flavor will not take over the taste of this dish. Instead, it enhances the flavor.
Tomatoes – We will use fresh tomato paste.
Onion – I will use it in the stew and when boiling the meat.
Cardamom and black pepper – These two spices go in only when boiling lamb meat.
🔪 HOW TO MAKE BAMYA
From the steps below, you will see how simple it is to make this stew, and I hope you will soon try it.
Add the cardamom, black peppercorns, onion, garlic, meat, and water to cook the lamb meat in a medium pot. Cook the meat on medium heat until it is cooked through.
In a large pan, add oil, and when hot, add the cooked meat and cook until you see light brown patches.
Add the onion and fry it with the meat until it’s translucent. Add the garlic, tomato puree, and cook until some liquid evaporates.
Add the chicken bouillon to the mixture and stir for two minutes on medium-low heat, then add the frozen bamya and stir for two more minutes. Add half a chicken bouillon cube and mix well.
Pour in the boiling water and stir for a few seconds. Add the tomato paste and stir. Cover the pan and let the mixture simmer for 20 minutes on medium-low or low heat until the okra is tender but not mushy. Serve with white rice.
👩🏽🍳 PRO TIPS
- Always use baby okra; if you can’t find it, go with what is available. Large okras will require a longer cooking time.
- If you only have regular or large Okra, frozen or fresh, fry them first and then use them in the recipe. This way the cooking time won’t be long.
- When stirring the bamya, do it gently not to break them; breaking the bamya will result in a very slimy texture because of the mucilage in them.
- The original recipe does not have chicken bouillon; the stew is cooked in lamb or beef stock. If you want to go Authentic, add more spices to the lamb when boiling it, like cumin seeds, a few cloves, and bay leaves.
- To have tender meat, cook on medium-low heat.
- If you don't have tomato paste, use ⅓ cup tomato sauce.
Vegetarian or vegan option – Follow the same steps. Just skip the meat and use vegetable stock or vegetable bouillon instead of chicken bouillon.
Add warm spices – Add half a teaspoon of cumin powder, turmeric, or paprika.
Lemon juice – Some prefer their okra stew more on the sour side. To achieve this, add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
Cilantro – Freshly chopped cilantro adds an excellent flavor to this stew. Try adding 1 teaspoon.
Add potatoes - Cut the potato into small cubes and add them to the stew when adding the Okra.
It tastes a little like zucchini.
I always use frozen to save time; whether you have used frozen or fresh, the outcome tastes the same.
I don’t thaw it, but I have tried cooking the stew with thawed Okra. I never noticed any difference in flavor or texture.
I prefer you go for lamb since it is tender and won’t get tough like beef. However, beef is a different story, so it’s best to cut it into smaller cubes.
📣 MORE MIDDLE EASTERN RECIPES
🌡️ STORING AND REHEATING
This bamya stew will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge. Place the leftovers in an airtight container.
To freeze the stew, place it in an airtight container, and it will keep for up to 3 months.
It is best to reheat the refrigerated stew on the stovetop or microwave it for 1 minute and 30 seconds.
Reheating a frozen stew requires letting it thaw in the fridge and then reheating it on a stovetop or microwave.
Bamya | Okra Stew Recipe
To cook the meat
- 600 grams medium lamb cubes
- 1 onion cut in half
- 7 whole garlic cloves
- 4 whole green cardamom
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- Enough water to cover the meat
For the stew
- 2 tablespoon oil
- 1 large onion thinly sliced
- 6 whole garlic cloves
- 2 tomatoes pureed
- 1 ½ cube chicken bouillon
- 3 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 ½ cups frozen baby Okra
How to cook the meat
- Add garlic, black peppercorns, onion, lamb meat, cardamom, and water in a medium pot.
- Cook on medium-high heat and allow the meat to cook. Drain from the stock and keep the meat aside.
To make the stew
- In a large pan, add the oil, and when hot, add the cooked meat cubes and sauté until you see the light brown patches.
- Add the sliced onion to the meat and cook until the onion is translucent.
- Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, then add the pureed tomatoes and a whole cube of chicken bouillon. Mix well until half the liquid evaporates.
- Add the frozen Okra to the meat and stir gently for a minute, then drop in half a cube of chicken bouillon and mix well.
- Pour in the boiling water and then add the tomato paste. Stir for a minute and then cover the pan. Cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes or on slow simmer for 30 minutes.
- When the Okra is tender and the sauce is slightly thick, the Okra stew is ready. Serve with rice or quinoa.
- If you are using fresh Okra, cut the tips off, then wash and pat it dry before using it in the recipe.
- No need to thaw the frozen baby okra before cooking.
- For more flavors, replace oil with ghee.
- It’s best to use lamb meat, but if all you have is beef, make the cubes smaller.
- You will notice that I didn’t add salt when boiling the meat, and it is to help it stay tender. I didn’t add salt to the stew since the chicken bouillon had enough salt to season the Bamya properly.
- Serve this stew with brown rice, white basmati rice, or Arabic bread.
- Add a teaspoon of lemon or lime juice if the okra broke while mixing and the texture got slightly slimy.