How I Conquered My Fear of ‘Bamyah Geragour’ (Okra Stew)

“How was your dinner”? I asked my husband as he departed from our evening meal heading for the comfort of the recliner while waiting for the Red Wing play-off hockey game to begin. “It was fine,” he replied nonchalantly with the tone of a person expecting to be indulged in thoughtfully prepared food. This evening, as usual, I witnessed a man who ate quite well, so I said, “I don’t see a tip on the table.”

The words of my mother came to mind; she would say it frankly but certainly not with malice, Gardzes teh mor-oun doun-e adank geragour geradz eh? (Do you think they ate food like that at their mother’s house?)

This particular evening I had made a meatless meal of bulgur pilaf, moist as we tend to prefer it, breaded sliced eggplant served with thick Karoun brand yogurt (my favorite)  mixed with diced cucumber, fried hot peppers, and  finally, bamyah  geragour known as okra stew.

He would not eat the okra stew. He tried it and said, “I am not a southerner. I just don’t care for it. I never ate that at home before I got married.”

I shot back, “So what, now you eat a lot of things you never got at your mother’s house and you relish all of it.” No dice.

I am not fazed by his refusal. I had finally bitten the bullet and succeeded. So many of my friends, all good cooks, had for years urged me to make the bedeviled okra stew and I just could not bring myself to do it. I was okra challenged! My mother always made it, especially when company was expected, and I loved it.

How many times  had I eye-balled beautiful fresh green baby okra in the Middle Eastern store and just walked away in fear?

I had heard all the horror stories of it becoming slimy and gooey. That put me off, like the white of a fried egg unless flipped over for a few seconds. I thought about it often but never ventured to try it, till finally one day while shopping I picked up a package of frozen baby okra. Still, I let it remain in the freezer for weeks. Deciding to make the bulgur pilaf triggered the decision that it needed the accompaniment of bamyah geragour to make the meal complete.

I am not faint of heart when it comes to tackling Armenian cuisine. In my over-four decades of marriage, I have met the challenge of the kitchen and come out victorious, never being daunted by Khapertsi, Sepastatsi, Kegeghtsi, or Bolsetsi recipes.

Being married to an odar (non-Armenian) I could have, granted, taken the easy road, but I think I had something to prove to myself. What’s that old saying, “Converts try harder”? Well, I didn’t convert but all my life I saw my mother’s expertise in everything that had to do with maintaining a home, and I didn’t plan on being less. I frequently tell him how lucky he is, and ask where he thinks he could find a wife like me.

He tells me, “I can find one in the old country.” He does possess old country ways himself, believe me.

I don’t spend as much time preparing these intricate foods as often as I used to. I think I deserve a breather now and then. The more women I talk to, the more I hear the same thing: “I am tired of cooking. We go out to dinner as much as possible.”

Here is my version for bamyah geragour. I hope you enjoy it. But if you don’t, no letters please.

** RECIPE **
In a sauce pan:
A couple of tablespoons of butter, plus the same of canola oil melted (use less if you can).
Dice and brown a medium onion in the butter until transparent.
Add a bag of frozen baby okra.
Add 1 1/2 cups of cold water.
Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste.
Add juice of l lemon.
Add salt and pepper.
Cover and cook over medium heat for 10-12 minutes.


Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty (Serpouhie) Apigian Kessel was born in Pontiac, Mich. Together with her husband, Robert Kessel, she was the proprietor of Woodward Market in Pontiac and has two sons, Bradley and Brant Kessel. She belonged to the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild for 12 years, serving as secretary for many of those years. During the aftermath of the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, the Detroit community selected her to be the English-language secretary and she happily dedicated her efforts to help the earthquake victims. She has a column in the Armenian Weekly entitled “Michigan High Beat.”


  1. the guy doesn’t know what he’s got, give him a kick in the bum…
    where do you live? i’ll be happy to eat his pazhen…i love bamyah!, but pilahv is my favorite, every woman makes it differently and i like the variations. i fondly/lovingly remember the pilahvs of my aunt and another Baji survivor  from the ‘old country’ (Sara Baji) in manchester, nh and marlboro, ma, they made the best pilahvs, little kinda dry, they were stingy(?) with the butter/oil ‘cuz they didn’t have much in the old country and learned to make it sparing the  ingredients, i can stil taste their cooking and years have gone by BUT no discredit to my mother’s or sisters’ pilahvs either…thanx for a good trip down memory lane. you enjoy the  bamyah even if he won’t, it mean more to those who know it firt hand…regards

  2. Oh my God! Bamya Geragour stew with lamb meat…It’s heavenly food.
    My late mom used to cook it, and my wife prepares it …even better. We call it Bamya Pilaf (with rice).
    My mom used to cook it the Chalkaratsi way, my wife cooks it the Vanetsi way.
    Bamya Pilaf
    is on the top of every menu in any restaurant in Baghddad, Iraq. I really have enjoyed every spoonful of it either at home or in the Iraqi restaurants.

  3. I love bamya with pilaf and so does my husband! When he bought some and brought it home I was nervous since I haven’t made it for over a year. I was looking up recipes and the one here is just like how I remember it so that was reassuring! I have fresh okra so I hope all goes well, wish me luck! Thanks for the article, your hubby doesn’t realize what he is missing! Cheers :)

  4. Betty, Bamya geragour is delicious… but my variantion is Dikrangerdsi style… lamb meat with bones or lamb chops) cooked for about 45 minutes, add sauted onions and some tomato sauce  and water (depending upon amount of ‘jeenj’ (gravy desired).  Add the bamya and cook for another 30-40 minutes… Squeeze a half lemon before serving –  with either rice or bulghur pilaf…

    • My mother-in-law prepared her bamya in the Dikrangerdsi style. I remember she, too, always added lemon, saying that it would keep the okra from becoming slimy..
      She always served it with rice pilaf, sometimes we would out it on top of the pilaf .I learned to prepared it the same way.
      These two dishes were so wonderful, and with the lamb in the bamya, that with pilaf would make a meal for us.

  5. I am not a fan of bamya but I LOVE cooking it! Reason: My entire family devours my cooking and watching them take such pleasure in this dish is pure joy. My recipe is loaded with garilc, lemon, tamarind paste, chopped tomatoes and ox tail. Fit for royalty!

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