Bamya is Middle Eastern okra and tomato stew served over white rice. This easy bamya recipe can be ready in just an hour, and requires very simple ingredients.
Bamya or Bamyeh is a very well known vegetable/dish in the Middle Eastern, especially in countries like Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. Okra is also cooked in Greece, Turkey, and the Midetreanen but in this post I’ll be sharing with you a Middle Eastern okra recipe where okra is stewed with tomatoes and served over white rice.
Okra is now in season (June-September) so we tend to cook lots of Okra, and we also freeze it to cook with later when it’s no longer in season.
This recipe can be either made vegan as I am making it for this post or cooked with meat, usually beef. In Jordan, both versions are common. The vegan bamia is usually made during the Christian fasting season as people must eat plant-based food only and this vegan okra makes an appearance on the menu.
This is my mum’s recipe, although she is Russian, she spent most of her life living in Jordan and have learned Middle Eastern cooking from our Arab neighbors. When my mother says that she will cook okra/bamyeh, it means that it will be cooked the Arabic way stewed with tomatoes and served over rice.
What Is Okra?
Okra, Okro, Bamya, Bamyeh, Bamia, Bamieh, Ladies fingers, or Ochro – are different names of these edible green seed pods that grow in warm temperature climates around the world. Okra loves heat, so when other plants are wilting in the sun during the really hot summer days, okra is producing its green pods and stands happily in the sun.
The okra plant is a flowering plant, and the flowers are pale yellow. The plant can reach up to 5 meters in height and produces the edible green seed pods. In some countries, the leaves of okra are also added to salads or are cooked like dandelions and beetroot leaves.
Okra pods can be cooked in different ways, and often have a slimy texture when cooked with water. The texture is similar to aloe vera but can be avoided if the okra is roasted or fried.
Okra Health Benefits
There are many benefits to okra.
Okra is rich in vitamin A and C and boosts the immune system. It also lowers bad cholesterol, improves heart health and promotes healthy skin.
Large Okra vs. Young Okra
For this Middle Eastern stewed okra with tomatoes, young okra is preferred. In the Middle East, big okra is considered too big and have missed the harvest season. However, big okra is great to be used for making okra chips!
How to Cook Okra
Okra can be fried, roasted, stewed with tomatoes, cooked with olive oil and coriander or thrown in salads.
How to Freeze Okra
Okra is in season in the summer, and every year we make sure that we stock up on lots of fresh okra to freeze and cook throughout the year (this is done in every Jordanian household).
To freeze okra, buy fresh okra preferably the okra that’s smaller in size. wash it, cut the stems off vacuum seal in freezer bags. The okra can stay in the freezer for up to 9 months.
How to Cook Frozen Okra
I usually freeze okra in the summer when it’s in season, and then cook it later in the year when fresh okra is no longer available. Take out the frozen okra from the freezer, and thaw for half an hour before cooking. You could also skip the thawing part, and heat a little bit of olive oil in a saucepan and cook the frozen okra for a few minutes.
How to Make Bamya Middle Eastern Okra Stew
Start by cutting the tips off using a small knife, then wash the okra and drain well.
Heat olive oil in a large pot, then saute a diced onion until it’s soft and translucent.
Add the washed okra to the pot, and saute for a few minutes.
Add a clove of crushed garlic to the pot, cook until fragrant for around 1 minute.
Now it’s time to add the spices. Add bay leaves, ground cumin, and turmeric.
Add vegetable stock to cover the okra, and cook for 20 minutes until the okra is cooked.
Add a can of sliced tomatoes, or fresh sliced tomatoes. And cook for 15 more minutes. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add salt.
Serve warm over white rice, and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley.
What Rice to Serve Okra Stew With?
I’m one of these people that really love basmati rice, however, for a dish like this okra stew I find basmati rice to be a bit too dry. So I mix basmati with carlose medium grain and cook together, or even better, serve it with Lebanese rice!
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I hope that you love every recipe that you make! – Diana x
Bamya Middle Eastern Okra Stew
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 pound (450g) okra fresh or frozen
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 1 can diced tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Start by cutting the tips off using a small knife, then wash the okra and drain well.
- Heat olive oil in a large pot, then saute a diced onion until it’s soft and translucent.
- Add the washed okra to the pot, and saute for a few minutes. Add a crushed garlic to the pot and cook until fragrant.
- Add bay leaves, ground cumin, and turmeric. followed by vegetable stock to cover the okra, and cook for 20 minutes until the okra is cooked.
- Add a can of diced tomatoes, or fresh sliced tomatoes. And cook for 15 more minutes. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add salt.
- Serve warm over rice.
- Nutrition facts are calculated per serving of okra stew without the rice.
- Serve with plain white rice or vermicelli rice.