Bamyeh: Palestinian Okra

One thing I love about Palestinian cuisine is its wide variety of simple yakhani (“thick stews;” sing. yekhen) featuring seasonal vegetables. Many of these yakhani are cooked following a basic pattern: cook meat and obtain broth, add featured vegetable and tomato sauce, then let cook. I love these dishes because I can savor the freshness of the vegetables, and it makes me feel like I am connected to the earth in which they were grown. I always end up pushing the chunks of meat off to the side and eating all the vegetables! Some of my favorite yakhani are yakhnit green fava beans, yakhnit tomato with ground meat, yakhnit white beans, yakhnit okra, and yakhnit spinach. You can eat most of these yakhani with bread or rice (or both, like my Taita does!).

Today we made Palestinian bamyeh, or okra, and I was really happy at the chance to take pictures so I could post the recipe here. The okra that Palestinians know and like best is the small, short kind. I really do not know what variety this is called, but it’s not usually what I have seen sold back in Minnesota. Even in the frozen foods section, it’s easy enough to find chopped frozen okra or long, thin okra, but those don’t work very well for the Palestinian okra dish. I’ll explain why in a bit.

Two things about our bamyeh:

1) We’re going to be cheating a little bit in this recipe, by using frozen okra. If you have fresh okra, all the better, but frozen works just fine when you can’t get fresh.

2) There are several Palestinian dishes that taste even better the next day (actually, they seem to get better day after day :p). Bamyeh is the best example. If you can, I really suggest making this dish a day before you actually want to have it. I’m serious; sitting in your fridge overnight just enhances its flavor, somehow!

Ingredients

500 grams (aprox) of small cubes of beef or lamb

500 grams (aprox) of frozen okra – if using fresh, wash and cut off the stems

8 tbsp of vegetable oil

6 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 cube of chicken or beef bouillon

1 small green chili pepper, chopped (optional)

3 large ripe tomatoes, quartered

salt and pepper to taste


Method

Wash the cubes of meat. Heat two tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a pot, then add the meat and brown it. Add enough water to cover the meat, then add 2 more cups of water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and leave it until the meat is just cooked.

Remove the just-cooked meat from the pot and set aside. Remove the broth from the pot and set aside. Keep the pot with the bits of meat for later use!

Cooked meat; set aside...

In a small bowl, empty your package of frozen okra and add 4 cloves of the chopped garlic, the chopped chili pepper, and the bouillon cube.

Bamyeh, chopped garlic, chili, and bouillon cube...

In the pot used to cook the meat earlier, heat two more tablespoons of the oil. When hot, add the okra (+ stuff), and brown it for a bit.

Browning the bamyeh ...

Now add the cooked meat…

Added the meat...

Crush the tomatoes in a blender with about half a cup of water. If it’s still very thick, add some of the broth from the meat cooked earlier.

Crushing the tomatoes...

Pour the crushed tomatoes through a strainer into the pot of okra and meat. Add enough broth from the meat cooked earlier until you get the stew to your desired thickness. I like it a bit on the thicker side. (Use the rest of the broth for making soups!) Let the stew come to a boil, then taste and adjust salt if necessary. Let it gently simmer for about 10-15 more minutes, or until the okra is cooked.

Letting the stew simmer...

The final step is the most fun part! In a small frying pan, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil well. Add the remaining two cloves of chopped garlic, and fry the garlic until it is “sha’rah” (“blond,” or golden brown). Then quickly pour all of the oil with the fried garlic into the big pot of bamyeh and meat. It should make a sizzling sound as the hot oil hits the surface of the stew.  Mix into the stew. This hot oil + garlic technique is called ” ‘ad7ah,” and is used to add a final layer of flavor to several different yakhani.

Serve your bamyeh with Egyptian or American short grain rice, or with fresh bread for dipping into it. Bamyeh is also commonly accompanied by a simple soup, and mlokhiyyeh, two great dishes for which I will be posting recipes soon insha’Allah :)

(Note on why chopped bamyeh doesn’t work well for this dish: Okra by nature has a “slimy” feel to it (in a good way!), and the “slime” is increased by cutting the vegetable open. If you use chopped okra, the stew itself will become very thick and slimier than it should be. )

Bowl of Bamyeh!

Recipes coming soon for:

Rice, and two common sides: Mlokhiyyeh (the green stew) and a simple soup...

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9 responses to “Bamyeh: Palestinian Okra”

  1. Christine says :

    This makes me so happy! I’ve been trying to do some 3rabi cooking for myself now that I’m living on my own, but my mom always explains it as “a little bit of this,” and “a lot of that,” so I never know how much to put. Thanks for the recipe!

  2. Zurzoor says :

    Christine,

    Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving a comment. I have been inactive for many months now, but I am hoping to get back to blogging and posting new recipes. Comments like yours are so encouraging! I really hope you were able to utilize my recipes, and do let me know if I’ve been unclear about explaining anything. Arabic recipes are SO hard to write!!

    • zakiyounis says :

      I think the reason they are hard to write is because they are stored in brains and hardly ever written down! I love this! Bringing back some good flavor memories, which, in my opinion, are the strongest!!! Peace for you and your loved ones!!!

  3. nadia says :

    hey!!! this was amazing.. i really liked it… please can you send me the recipi for Mlokhiyyeh.. i have seen it before but im dieng to taste it!!!

    • Zurzoor says :

      Nadia,

      I’m so glad you liked it!!! The recipe for Mlokhiyyeh is super simple. I’ll just jot it down below; if you need more specific measurements, let me know! :

      1. Boil some chicken and one onion, kept whole, in water, until the chicken is tender. Remove the chicken and put it off to the side. Remove onion and discard.

      2. Defrost a bag of frozen Mlokhiyyeh, and pour it into the pot of chicken stock. Stir.

      3. Bring the Mlokhiyyeh to a boil, then turn the heat down and let it cook for no more than 2 or 3 minutes. (If you overcook it, it will separate and all the leaves will fall to the bottom of the pot). Turn the heat off.

      4. Make the ‘ad7ah as described in the post above, but add a heaping spoonful of dried coriander powder and saute it along with the garlic. When the garlic starts to turn golden, and the coriander gets really fragrant, pour this ‘ad7ah into the pot of Mlokhiyyeh. Stir, and add salt as desired.

      5. Serve with rice and/or bread! When you serve it, you can either brown the chicken you had put off to the side in the oven and serve it next to the Mlokhiyyeh, or you can put the boiled chicken pieces back into the Mlokhiyyeh (like a stew).

      That’s it!! Hope that was helpful! Do let me know if you try it :)

  4. Lori Salim says :

    Thanks for the recipe. This is my husband’s favorite and I didn’t have a recipe. He grew 40 feet of okra in our garden and has been freezing it to take to his sister so she can make it! Shukran!

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  1. Easy Potato Stew: Yekhen Batata « Fulbright Feasting - March 12, 2010

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