A simple recipe my Egyptian father used to make- Egyptian Okra over Rice – a delicious vegan meal made with fresh okra, tomatoes and flavorful Middle Eastern Spices. 

Egyptian Okra over Rice- A simple delicious vegan meal made with fresh okra, tomatoes and flavorful Middle Eastern Spices | www.feastingathome.com

Wandering through the farmers market, I stumbled upon fresh vibrant okra and couldn’t wait to bring it home and cook it the way my dad used to when I was growing up. His delicious Egyptian Okra was served over fluffy rice and became a simple vegetarian meal, surprisingly full of flavor, and to me, deeply satisfying. It reminds me of home.  It’s a dish my grandmother made for him in the little Egyptian village he grew up in, and I believe when he made this, it brought him comfort and reminded him of home too.

This is a meal to make in summer when okra and tomatoes are fresh, ripe and in season – so head to your local farmers market or Asian Market and seek some out. They are well worth the hunt!

Here, the okra is quickly sautéed with onion, garlic, spices and tomatoes – and it’s this quick way of quick cooking that lessens the “slimy-ness” people often dislike.  Of course, you could cook this into more of a stew,  but my dad’s way was to just cook it until the okra was more “al- dente”, not mushy,  tender, yet still firm and bright vivid green.  Served over rice it made for a flavorful vegetarian meal.

Egyptian Okra over Rice- A simple delicious vegan meal made with fresh okra, tomatoes and flavorful Middle Eastern Spices | www.feastingathome.com

Originating from North Africa, Okra was cultivated by the ancient Egyptians in the 12th century B.C. It spread throughout Africa and the Middle East where the green pods were typically cooked in stews and has many names.

My dad called okra  “bamya”.

I can still see my dad preparing this meal in our old kitchen, wearing his “galabia”- a long soft thin white cotton tunic with a deep, delicately embroidered neck, his usual lounging attire at home. My mom would be right next to him, making the rice, perfectly fluffy and light. The house would smell heavenly.

The truth is I’ve been missing my dad lately.  I miss the sound of his voice and how he would say my name.

Have I ever told you his name? It’s Fereh. It means “rejoicing”.   His mother’s name was Shadah, which means “honey”.  They were from a small village in Fayum, Egypt, the same very same oasis town in the book, The Alchemist, if you are familiar with it.

From a long line of Copts (a very old Christian religion), he was tattooed with a primitive cross on his right inner wrist when he was very little, indicating his religion.

There is a story here about my father’s life – that just wants to pour out of me.  I’ve been intentionally damning it up, because if I were to start, I know I couldn’t stop, and it would turn into a 500-page novel and I’m not a writer, I’m a cook! And this is a recipe blog!  But it wants to come out and live and breathe so very badly. Perhaps someday.

One thing I’ll say is how much I loved the way he cooked. Turning simple humble ingredients into flavorful feasts. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we always ate well.

Egyptian Okra over Rice- A simple delicious vegan meal made with fresh okra, tomatoes and flavorful Middle Eastern Spices | www.feastingathome.com

Egyptian Okra over Rice- A simple delicious vegan meal made with fresh okra, tomatoes and flavorful Middle Eastern Spices | www.feastingathome.com

Okra, surprisingly, is a close cousin of hibiscus and hollyhock.  A beautiful six foot tall annual with heart-shaped leaves and large yellow hibiscus-like flowers, it produces edible bright green seed pods, at their tender best about 3-4 inches in length.

Its pods are ridged and fuzzy containing rows of edible seeds that release a viscous liquid when chopped. Okra fans love this because the juice it gives off provides a natural thickening to soups, stews and gumbo. But this is also the same quality that turns many people off. Yes, it’s an acquired taste, just as many good things are in life. Its flavor itself is quite subtle though, so it compliments strong, spicy ingredients very well.

Egyptian Okra over Rice- A simple delicious vegan meal made with fresh okra, tomatoes and flavorful Middle Eastern Spices | www.feastingathome.com

Anyways…. I hope this recipe brings you as much comfort and nurturing as it brings me. Another of my dad’s recipes, Rustic Zucchini Tian can be found here!

Happy weekend to you!

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Egyptian Okra


Description

A Simple flavorful Middle Eastern dish highlighting Okra.


Ingredients

Scale
  • ½ pound fresh okra ( you can use frozen but fresh is WAY better)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onion- red, yellow or sweet
  • 5 cloves, sliced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 roma tomatoes- diced ( or any ripe tomato)
  • ½ lemon
  • garnish- fresh flat leaf parsley ( optional)
  • Serve over cooked rice ( or other cooked grain)

Instructions

  1. Wash and dry okra. Dry Well.
  2. Cut both ends off, and slice into ½-¾ inch rings
  3. Dice the onion, slice the garlic and dice the tomatoes.
  4. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat.
  5. When hot add the onion and sauté, stirring often for 2-3 minutes, until just tender.
  6. Add garlic, turn heat to medium, and stir 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
  7. Add the okra. Stir often over medium heat for about 10- 12 minutes. At this point they should look vibrant green and be cooked al dente. Test one, You want them tender, yet still just slightly firm. Add spices and salt. Keep stirring and saute for 2 more minutes until the spices toast a little. Add the diced tomatoes and their juices and cook 2-3 more minutes, until the tomato juices begin to release. Don’t over cook or let the tomatoes get overly soft.
  8. Squeeze with lemon. Sprinkle with fresh parsley if you like.
  9. Serve over fluffy rice in a bowl.
  10. Egyptian Comfort Food!

 

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Hi, I'm Sylvia!

Chef and author of the whole-foods recipe blog, Feasting at Home, Sylvia Fountaine is a former restaurant owner and caterer turned full-time food blogger. She currently lives in the Pacific Northwest and shares seasonal, healthy recipes along with tips and tricks from her home kitchen.

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Comments

  1. Hi Sylvia

    So excited to try your recipe tonight!

    We just came back to South Africa from a trip in Egypt, where I tried this dish and loved it! As other have mentioned, food isn’t just food. There are stories, heritage, memories all mixed into it, and my hopes is to re-live a bit of our trip while celebrating your heritage and family.

    Thank you for that 🙂

    1. Sounds wonderful Jennifer. What a lovely trip. Feeling a little jealous. 😉 Enjoy the okra!

  2. Thanks for the recipe. It’s a great way to use our garden okra and it’s delicious too!

  3. I’ve been receiving and enjoying your newsletters for quite some time now.
    I was searching for different varieties of okra to add to my garden and new recipes to make for our culinary delight, when I came across your post about your father’s recipe.
    I’m tickled to say if it had a bay leaf added for each pound of okra it would be the exact same go to recipe my Greek grandfather taught me 49 years ago He had a greek name for it, but in general it was just called Stewed Okra and Tomatoes.
    Instead of serving it over rice, pasta or other grains, I bake up a couple loaves of fresh yeast bread and we sop up every last drop of the sauce with it.
    I really enjoyed reading about your memories of your father in the kitchen.
    Thank you for sharing that!
    As a Culinary Foodie Nerd I look for the science and stories behind foods quite frequently.
    If you’re interested in the same, I highly recommend the America’s Test Kitchen podcast “Proof.”
    I binged listened to all the podcasts they had when I found it and got all caught up. I look forward to each week’s release now.
    If you have a favorite culinary podcast, I’d love to expand my podcast library with recommendations.
    Thank you!
    Donna Creamer

    1. Sounds delicious with crusty bread too! Thanks for the podcast recommendation-I will look for it. I wish I had some food related podcasts to point you to too. I tend to switch directions when it comes to podcasts. Currently loving Energy Blueprint, The Dr.’s Farmacy, Body Mind Green, and Insights at the Edge.:)

  4. I am Egyptian and I liked the story of your dad, El Fayom is a beautiful place realy. BTW his mam called “Shahad” not “Shadah”, and yes it means honey.

  5. Went to the farmers market and they had beautiful okra. Found this recipe and the cooked veggies over some coconut basmati brown rice was terrific. Thanks again for sharing your wealth of cooking expertise.

  6. If you wrote about your dad I would read it. I cried reading this as I vividly imagined all you wrote. I’m from Ohio, my husband is a copy from Cairo, his father is from upper Egypt too, also in the farming industry. He died 4 years ago but I still miss him too. Hearing you write makes me wonder about our children and if they will look at my husband that way. I hope so. People won’t understand the magic of Egypt and the Copts unless they visit themselves. Or unless you write it for them to see it all on the inside. 🙂 cheers

  7. Growing up in the South, we ate a lot of okra… fried, stewed, in gumbo, poached whole on top of a pot of beans. Your dad’s recipe reminds me of stewed okra and tomatoes, only better! We loved this dish! The colors were vibrant, the flavors perfectly blended, and the texture beautifully al dente. Southerners in the past usually cooked their veggies to mush and okra to sliminess. This dish was perfect! Thank you for sharing it and for sharing your stories about your dad. The story behind the dish made it even more splendid.

  8. Please never apologize for including your family stories with your recipes. A dish, is never just a dish. The family stories behind it are just as important. And how beautiful that you can share them with us, people of different ethnic backgrounds and cultures. Keep cooking and keep sharing

  9. Just let me say this is 100% traditional Egyptian bamya. Probably more often than not lamb was added to the stew, but meat being expensive back when I lived in Cairo it was also made as a vegetarian dish (as so many true Egyptian dishes are). Fresh bamya here in Toronto are usually very large, so I use frozen Egyptian bamya – size zero – and they are very good indeed. Not quite as ‘slimy’ as the fresh, but still very good! Thanks for sharing1

  10. I’m Egyptian and my grandmother was also from Fayum! I loved reading your blog, brought back wonderful memories. I watched my grandmother make many dishes, and this was one. Not exactly how she made it, but I’m going to try your recipe sine I can’t recall her exact recipe. I know she used tomato paste. I made her malakoya and it was very delicious! Surprised myself that I recalled it to the “T”. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Dear Sylvia,
    Since it’s passed the height of gardening season, and your allusion and remembrance of your Father made me cry, I was wondering if you would write that story. Even if it turns into a mini novel, I would love to read it.
    P. S. You have inspired me to give okra another try ( I alone in the house likes it), as well as start writing down my own remembrances of my Father. He is missed, too.

  12. Dear Sylvia,

    A friend of mine gave us fresh okra. I was excited to finally try this recipe. It tastes awesome. Very simple yet flavourful.

    My Grandmother was 100 % Egyptian. A strong & long Egyptian lineage.
    She was known to be a fantastic cook. Sadly, no one has any of her recipes.

    I would love to try other Egyptian recipes, from your Dad’s home cooking. It is not easy to find good, authentic recipes on-line.

    Thank you for your recipe blog!

    Sincerely,

    Rachel

    1. Hi Natalie, this is how my dad made it. He was Egyptian too. I’m not sure if it was traditional in the Egyptian sense, but this okra dish was a tradition in our home. 🙂 Out of curiosity and for the other readers can you describe how you would make it?

    2. Well it must have been in her family, and it sounds delish and something I may try since I don’t particularly care for okra even though my hubby does! Thanks for the recipe !

  13. I’ve grown okra here in Spokane the past few years, yet my yields are small because some pest seems to love okra plants. I was at Rockwood Bakery today and we exchanged greetings – I think. Been a long time since I’ve talked with you, so I’m not sure. Please pardon me if I’m wrong.