Bemyieh, or okra, is a fine delicacy of Lebanese cuisine. The plant itself is a beautiful shrub with pretty blue flowers that will turn into edible pods holding the plant’s seeds. The trick is to choose small enough okra for them not to be tough and full of hard seeds. And the other major trick is to know how to take off each okra stem before cooking: If too short, the okra pod will be bare and give the stew an unpleasant gooey consistency. Both okra and mouloukhyieh (Jew’s mallow) tend to transform their stew or cooking sauce into something gooey—which is something universally disliked!
Use a short, sharp knife, and take off the okra stem in a circular, conical way, so to keep the pod closed from its top. Frozen okra comes ready to use, and makes it all that much easier!
- 3 medium yellow onions
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
- 1 head of garlic, cloves separated
- 4 medium tomatoes
- 1 bunch green coriander, leaves and stems separated
- Crushed red chile flakes
- 1 3/4 pounds (800 g) okra pods
- 1 tablespoon (20 g) debs el remmen (pomegranate molasses)
- Kamal Mouzawak
Finely chop the onions. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over low heat and sauté the onions until softened but not taking on any color, about 10 minutes. Thinly slice the garlic, add to the onion, cover the pot, and let the onion and garlic cook and together over low heat until the onions are nearly melting, about 30 minutes.
Peel the tomatoes if desired (blanch them in boiling water for a minute to loosen the skins), coarsely chop them, and add to the onions.
Finely chop the coriander stems and add to the onions. Season to taste with salt and red chile flakes. The sauce should be of a nice consistency, and all the vegetables nearly melted. Add the okra and stir lightly so as not to break the fragile pods. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes.
Finely chop the coriander leaves and add to the pot, along with the pomegranate molasses. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Note: For the bi lahmeh (meaty version), start by sautéing (14 ounces) 400 g of cubed lean beef in 2 tablespoons (28 ml) of vegetable oil, then continue with the onion as directed above. This version is served with white rice or Grainy Rice with Vermicelli.