Bamya is a a hearty Egyptian stew made with meat and okra. When simmered in this acidic sauce, okra has little of the sliminess that it is known for. This delicious stew can be prepared with beef or lamb. The stew meat simmers until it is nicely tender, and then the flavor is kicked up with tomato, garlic, coriander, cumin, and lemon juice. The flavor is really different than any other stew I've had, and super yummy!
Okra is known to have been cultivated by the Ancient Egyptians, and it is still commonly used in Egypt today. My family discovered Bamya a couple years ago when my kids and I were exploring international foods as part of our Ancient History studies.
Every summer since then, my son waits in eager anticipation for local okra to appear at the market, because he absolutely LOVES bamya! We like to make a double batch, that way we can freeze leftovers in single-serving glass dishes for easy lunches. My son even likes to eat leftover Bamya cold, although I prefer it re-warmed.
I've never *been* to Egypt, so this dish is inspired by Egyptian Bamya rather than an exact replica of what you'd find there. :)
Bamya - Egyptian Meat and Okra Stew
1 large yellow or white onion, chopped
3 Tb butter (or other healthy fat of your choice, such as tallow, ghee, etc.)
1 lb beef or lamb stew meat
2 cups filtered water
1 bay leaf
1/2 lb fresh okra, stem ends and long tapered ends removed, chopped into 1/2 inch chunks
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tb fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp dried coriander
1 tsp dried cumin
1 Tb salt
1/2 tsp pepper
OPTIONAL: cooked white rice, to serve
Melt the butter in a 4-quart pot over medium-high heat.
Add the chopped onion and 1/2 Tb salt. Sauté for about 10 minutes, allowing the onion to take on a bit of brown, caramelized color.
Stir the stew meat into the pot. Sprinkle with 1/2 Tb salt (or use less if your tomato paste is salted) and 1/2 tsp pepper. Allow the meat to brown for about five minutes, stirring after a few minutes.
Add 2 cups of water and the bay leaf to the pot. Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Allow the meat to simmer for 60-80 minutes, until it is nearly tender.
In the meantime, prepare the okra. Remove the stem ends. I prefer to also remove the long tapered ends, which seem to contribute to okra's reputation for sliminess. Chop the okra into 1/2-inch chunks. Discard any okra pods that have brown seeds inside, as these will be tough.
Mince the garlic and juice the lemon.
Once the meat is nearly tender, add the okra, garlic, tomato paste, lemon juice, coriander, and cumin to the pot. Stir to combine.
Simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove 1/2 cup of liquid from the pot. Whisk 3 Tb rice flour or arrowroot into this liquid. Then whisk it back into the pot. Bring to a low boil for a few minutes, to allow the flour to thicken the stew liquid. Beware: arrowroot breaks down and loses it's sauce-thickening ability if simmered too long, so only simmer for a few minutes if you're using arrowroot.
Turn off heat and ladle into bowls. This stew can be served as it is, or over white rice as it is traditionally served in Egypt . Enjoy!
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