Okra is a flowering plant that is completely edible and very popular in the Southern States. In my Arabic culture, we also grew up eating Okra in recipes like this Lebanese style Okra Stew (which we call bamia/bamya in Arabic).
In fact, it’s one of dozens of stews we eat, all made up of different vegetables, and mostly all containing a garlic/cilantro/tomato base. What I love about the stews we eat is that they are super easy to make in one pot, have a ton of nutrition from the garlic, olive oil, tomatoes and the vegetables used, and they are very comforting in the winter over a warm bowl of rice pilaf.
The recipe below has the easy steps to follow to make this Okra Stew. And if you’d like to make it vegan/vegetarian, just don’t add the beef and the recipe will still be fabulous! You can also substitute it for chicken if you’d like. I make this vegan all the time and love the results.
However, to make the traditional white rice pilaf, I fry 1/4 cup of vermicelli with olive oil, then I stir in the rice (2 cups usually) and cook the rice as I usually would, adding an extra 1/4 cup of water for the vermicelli.
In a heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil, then add the garlic, cilantro and onions and cook for about 1 minute until fragrant.
Add the frozen okra to the garlic cilantro mixture and stir well, coating the okra with the mixture and breaking up the frozen okra. Pan-fry the okra for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the okra is fully cooked.
Add the tomato paste, fresh cut tomatoes and 4 cups of boiling water to the pan. Then add the beef tips and mix around to incorporate everything together. Lower heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes until sauce thickens.
Serve over traditional Arabic rice pilaf and sprinkle fresh cilantro for garnish.
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