Bamiyeh (Stewed Okra with Tomato Sauce)

Ingredients for  bamiyeh

Ingredients for bamiyeh

Bamiyeh, or okra stewed in tomato sauce with meat, is a staple in most Middle Eastern households. I’m going to be honest, we didn’t really eat much of it growing up. My dad was never crazy about okra, and I distinctly remember a moment when my brother and I were kids, and we thought the dish was called BAMBI (bambi, bamiyeh, get it?).

Anyway, now that I know this dish has nothing to do with baby deer, I find it absolutely DELICIOUS. Seriously. The saucy okra with the cilantro garlicky goodness added at the end is simply a bite of heaven. AND it’s healthy to boot. Who wants to give it a try?

Cilantro and garlic with completed  bamiyeh

Cilantro and garlic with completed bamiyeh

A couple things to note: it’s important to get the small okra, not the long one. If you can’t find it fresh, frozen is just fine.

This dish is traditionally cooked with lamb. Syrian lamb is really special and has a much milder flavor than in other parts of the world. One of the adaptations my mom made when moving to the U.S. was using beef instead. Using lamb or beef is up to your discretion.

For the garlic and cilantro component below, my mom said “there are no rules as to how much cilantro you use.” I used a whole bunch, but if you don’t love cilantro, you’re welcome to use less.

Completed  bamiyeh  being plated

Completed bamiyeh being plated

Bamiyeh (Stewed Okra with Tomato Sauce)

Serves 3-4

1 lb. beef cubes (or cubed beef chuck)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp 7 spice or all spice
1.5 lbs small okra (fresh or frozen)
2 large tomatoes
1 c tomato puree
1/4 c olive oil
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
1 c calrose rice, or another medium grain rice, soaked
Pomegranate molasses and lemon juice to taste

  1. Cook beef:

    1. Heat a stock pot over high. Add the beef cubes and the chopped onion. Cook, stirring frequently until the meat is nice and brown and the onion is translucent, about 5 mins.

    2. Add 1 tsp of 7 spice, 1 tsp of salt and black pepper and cook for another minute.

    3. Cover the beef completely with water, cover the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let it go for about an hour.

    4. Drain the beef, over a bowl to reserve the liquid.

  2. Cook the okra (can be prepared 2 days ahead):

    1. Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.

    2. Toss the okra in a bit of olive oil and s&p.

    3. Roast in the oven for about 15 mins, until beginning to turn soft.

  3. Cook it all together!

    1. Add the okra and the beef together in the stock pot.

    2. Add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato puree.

    3. Add the liquid from the beef until it’s a “soupy” consistency, about 2 cups.

    4. Simmer covered until the okra is really nice and soft so it absorbs a lot of the sauce, about 2 hours.

  4. Meanwhile, make the garlic and cilantro component:

    1. Heat a small saucepan over high, reduce to medium and add the 1/4 c of olive oil.

    2. Add the minced garlic, stirring constantly, being careful not to burn.

    3. Once it turns golden-brown, take it off the heat and add the chopped cilantro to stop the cooking process.

  5. Make the rice:

    1. Drain the rice and let sit for 30 seconds to dry

    2. Add 1 tbsp neutral cooking oil to a saucepan on high, add the rice and 2 tsp of salt. Cook until rice starts to turn opaque, about 4-5 minutes.

    3. Add 1.25 c of water, bring to a boil, cover and lower to the lowest setting (not just low, the lowest)

    4. Let simmer until the water is absorbed, about 20-25 more minutes.

  6. Once the okra is nice and soft, take it off the heat and add your pomegranate molasses and lemon juice (I added 4 tbsp pom. mol. and 2 tbsp lemon juice).

  7. Adjust salt and pepper.

  8. Stir in about 3/4 of the cilantro and garlic, add the okra to a serving dish, and drizzle the rest of the cilantro and garlic.

  9. Serve with rice, and enjoy!