Man, I used to hate bamia. I couldn’t stand it. If my mom was cooking bamia, you knew that day I’d be eating rice with yogurt. There is something about the slightly slimy texture that just turned me off. Then I got married. My husband is Saudi, but his mom is hard core Palestinian and she can COOK. I was proud of myself for being relatively accomplished in the kitchen, and I would lovingly present dishes of lasagna, green curry, chili, and pasta to my husband until one day he put his plate down with a sigh. “Rice.” he said. “Have you heard of rice?” My husband loves his old fashioned Arabic dishes so I knew that the time had come for me to tackle them
Arabic food- a myriad of cuisines.
Arabic cuisine is delicious to be sure, especially food from the Levant (Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon). I’m fully aware I’m being completely biased here, since I am Palestinian myself so I apologize to all my Khaleeji followers-trust me your cuisine has a dear place in my heart as well. I have an uncommon appreciation for cheese sambosa, karak and rangeena.
Arabic cuisine is definitely a lot more time consuming than a 30 minute throw together pasta or other Western dishes. I was a little intimidated starting out, and still am of a lot (musakhan and mansaf are on the list) but I had to perfect bamia because it is my husbands favorite food in the world. I practiced, failed a lot, then I started to enjoy cooking it and even eating it.
It will never be my favorite food in the world (hello chocolate chip cookies), but I finally see the appeal. And the version below is a good one! I tried to pin down the measurements as much as I could, but Middle Eastern cooking is a whole bunch of “a little bit of this, a pinch of that, more of this” so feel free to add/reduce spices to your desired taste. I also like a thick tomato sauce, so I add a lot of tomato paste- completely modifiable! This is a great base, but tweak however you want. Enjoy!
Bamia (Middle Eastern Okra and Meat Stew)
- 500 g meat cubes beef or lamb
- 1-2 packs tomato paste 200 g each
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp seven spices
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- olive oil to coat the pan
- 2 packs frozen okra slightly thawed
- 3 tomatoes diced
- 2 onions chopped
- 5 cloves garlic roughly sliced
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- pinch sugar
- 10 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 bunches coriander finely chopped
- In a pressure cooker, add the meat cubes, one of the diced onions, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, seven spices, and 1 small container tomato paste. Cover with water until it comes about an inch above the meat. After it comes to pressure, cook for 25 minutes or until meat is cooked through and tender and remove from heat.
- Coat a large deep skillet or wok with olive oil, and add the second diced onion and the sliced garlic. Sautée until slightly softened, then add the okra (it’s fine if it isn’t completely thawed). Sprinkle with some salt and pepper, turmeric, and cumin, and keep stirring over medium high heat for around 10 minutes or until cooked through and beginning to turn golden brown.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes or until tomatoes begin to release their juices. Taste for seasoning.
- Add the okra mixture to the cooked meat in the tomato sauce. Put the pan back on the heat, and if you feel it’s too watery, add 1/2-1 container of tomato paste (I almost always end up adding this). Add the sugar (optional) and vinegar and let it simmer over low heat for around 10 minutes.
- Drizzle a separate small skillet with olive oil, and fry the chopped coriander and garlic over medium heat for a few minutes until the garlic starts to turn golden. Add this on top of the okra stew.
- Serve with rice of choice and enjoy!