Of all the Assyrian stews, and there are many, okra stew is my favorite. Known as “Ladies’ fingers,” okra is the edible seed pod of the flowering okra plant. Assyrians call okra, “bomya” or “bamiyeh.” As a matter of fact, okra is known as “bamya” throughout the Middle East. Stew is known as “shirwa” in Assyrian. So the direct translation of “shirwa’t bomya” means “stew of okra.” OK, this concludes your Assyrian language lesson for the day (you’re welcome). Now, on to the recipe!
How to Pick the Perfect Okra for Okra Stew
In my humble opinion, okra gets a bad wrap. Many people, including my husband, complain about its sliminess, and never give it a chance. It’s true, okra can be slimy, but not if you know how to pick it, and cook it correctly. The key is to pick the smaller okra if you’re lucky enough to find it. Larger okra contains larger seeds, which are less desirable. Additionally, the okra should be green, firm, and without blemishes. If okra is not in season, there are other great options. Most Middle Eastern markets have frozen okra, which is perfect for this stew. Not only are they tiny, but they’re so cute! Can vegetables be considered cute? If you can’t find frozen okra, there’s always pickled okra. Just be sure to purchase the petite variety. Finally, whether you purchase frozen, or jarred okra, verify that they are whole, not sliced.
What Are the Benefits of Eating Okra?
If you love okra like I do, then you don’t need convincing. But I bet some of you are still on the fence about trying okra. What if I told you that it was good for you, would that make a difference? One cup of raw okra contains only 33 Calories, 7.5 grams of Carbohydrates, 3 grams of Fiber, and 2 grams of Protein. Besides being a good source of Protein and Fiber, it’s also high in Riboflavin, Niacin, Potassium, and Zinc. It is also rich in Vitamins A, C, and K. I could go on, but you get the point. Not only is okra delicious, but it’s also good for you! Okra stew is usually served over white rice, with plenty of herbs, and scallions on the side.
You may also enjoy the following recipes: Potato Chop (fried potato patties), Chipteh (Meatball Stew), Booshala (Creamy Yogurt Soup), Masheh (Bean Stew), and Aadas (Lentil Soup). Don’t forget to check out my Classic Middle Eastern Food Combinations.
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Assyrian okra stew, known as "bomya" or "bamya." This stew is usually served over plain white rice.
- 1 lb. lamb chops or stew beef with bones
- 2 cups small okra or 1-21 oz. jar pickled okra
- 1 T. vegetable oil
- 1 small onion diced
- 1 T. paprika
- 6 oz. can tomato paste
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tomato chopped
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 T. lemon juice
- Cut meat into 3” pieces and wash in a strainer, until the water runs clear. Place meat in a 5 qt. Dutch oven and add 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove meat from the pot and pour out any remaining liquid. Rinse the pot and place the meat back inside.
- If using fresh okra, wash and trim the end by cutting around the “cap” to form a cone shape. If using pickled okra, rinse well before using.
- Add oil, onion, and paprika to the meat. Stir, over medium heat, to brown the meat. Mix tomato paste into 4 cups hot water, stir to dissolve. Add tomato paste to the pot, along with garlic, okra, chopped tomato, salt and lemon juice. Simmer, covered, for 40 minutes. Serve over white rice.