Egyptian bamia is a slow-simmered okra and tomato stew made with baby okra, meat, and a homemade onion tomato sauce. Bamia can be made in a few ways with or without meat. My favorite way to make this okra stew is with tender oxtail.
What I Love About This Recipe
My favorite thing about this recipe is that all of the flavors come together into this savory tender stew that literally melts in your mouth! This recipe does take a little bit of time, like koshari and mahshi crumb, unfortunately, but it's worth it! I have included some tips for speeding up this recipe (like using frozen Egyptian magic red sauce) in one of the sections below.
Egyptian magic red sauce: Use tomatoes (Roma, tomato on the vine, or beefsteak), onions, and garlic to make this homemade tomato sauce.
Okra: Frozen okra or fresh okra is suitable, however, I use frozen okra because it's convenient. I prefer baby okra, but large okra cut into 1" sections is good.
- Oxtail: I buy the oxtail already cut into 2" (5 cm) thick sections. Previously frozen oxtail is suitable. Substitute other cuts of meat like beef shank, boneless beef, or boneless lamb.
- Spices: Cook the oxtail with cardamom, onions, salt, and a bay leaf prior to making the stew.
How to Make Bamia
Make Egyptian bamia in three main steps: cook the meat, prepare the tomato sauce, and prepare the okra stew.
Cook the Meat
In a large pot, add the oxtail, salt, pepper, water, bay leaves, and cardamom pods. Bring the oxtail to a boil and reduce to medium heat and cover. Cook for about 1.5 hours refilling the water as necessary. Once the oxtail is starting to get tender, remove it from the heat.
Make the Onion and Garlic Tomato Sauce
Make the Egyptian magic red sauce. Don't use canned tomato sauce, or take any shortcuts for this sauce. This sauce is the key. In a food processor blend the onions and garlic cloves.
In a blender, blend the tomatoes.
Strain the blended tomatoes with a strainer. In a large stovetop pot on medium-high heat, add olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic mixture. Fry the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes or until they start to change color.
Add the strained tomato puree, sugar, salt, and pepper. Cover the pot, reduce to medium heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Make the Okra Stew
Set the oven to 425 ℉ (218 ℃). In a large pot (see note), combine the tomato sauce with the cooked oxtail. Cover and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes.
Remove the cover and add the okra to the pot. Cook on medium heat covered for 20 minutes.
If the pot can be put in the oven directly, put it in the oven. Otherwise, transfer the stew to an oven-safe dish and put it in the oven. Cook until brown crust forms on top for about 30 to 45 minutes. Squeeze some lime on the oxtail stew before going in the oven.
Serve with a side of rice.
Tips and Tricks
- Cook the oxtail prior to making the stew. Oxtail can be tough if not cooked long enough.
- Use frozen Egyptian magic red sauce. This means that you would have already prepared this sauce ahead of time, either storing it in the fridge or freezer.
- Make the oxtail and magic red sauce the day before. Assemble the stew the night you want to eat it.
Substitutions and Variations
- Substitute other cuts of beef or lamb in lieu of oxtail.
- Use fresh large okra cut into small sections in lieu of baby okra.
Store the okra stew in the fridge for up to 4 days. Freeze the onion-tomato sauce in the freezer for up to 4 months.