Guingambó Guisado (Stewed Okra) Even if you think it’s gooey, you’ll like the food history

18 Jul

In Puerto Rico we call it guingambó (geen-gahm-BOH) or variations on that word, which seems to derive from the original African term for it. You may know it as okra (which may be another African derivative) or ladyfingers for the elegant shape of its conical pods. Usually bright green, there are gorgeous red varieties too (the red color doesn’t really hold up in cooking, unfortunately). It’s available year-round in hot places, but in the Northeast, it is a summer to early fall vegetable.

From the farmer's market

From the farmer’s market

It is said to originate in Abbysinia/Ethiopia/Eritrea and made its way across Africa and eventually to the Americas where it was particularly embraced in the Caribbean and Southern — especially French –U.S. There were loads of Africans imported against their will to those regions but okra came with them and it happens to grow well there. And they had to do a lot of the cooking so they incorporated it in creative ways.

Chop Chop!

Chop Chop!

Gumbo, that deservedly beloved stew cook-up from the New Orleans area,was thickened with okra and probably gets its name from that same African word that sounds like guingambó, although you might think that “gummy” has something to do with it too. After all, that gooey stuff inside called “mucilage” definitely brings things together. Today it is gaining popularity amongst non-Southern, non-Caribbean people and that is a good thing! You can bread and fry it, which is on my list to try soon, and when my CSA farm has some I will eat it raw and love it up, but the way I adore it is stewed.

A little ham for sweetness and depth

A little ham for sweetness and depth

My dad claimed not to like okra for the usual reason: TOO GOOEY! But then I brought some red okra home fresh from an organic farm in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico (Productos Sana) and he went at it and changed his mind. Funnily enough, my late maternal grandmother (Puerto Rican) used to make a delicious stew. My dad (Aruban), in his experimenting, inadvertently ended up creating the same dish with nearly the same flavors as she used and I am very happy!

This was the version before Pedro was scolded into chopping it in rounds

This was the version before Pedro was scolded into chopping it in rounds the way my grandmother did. Easier to eat.

The recipe is below, but first, a few valuable links for food history nerds.

The Productos Sana farmer at the farmer's market in Rincón

The Productos Sana farmer, Javier Blondet (co-owner with his wife Sonia Carlo)  at the farmer’s market in Rincón. Can you find the red okra?

The history of okra fron Texas A&M Agricultural Extension.

The Southern Foodways Alliance has a nice little history of gumbo that refers to okra and that I find very helpful.

And when it comes to reducing the goo, try this background piece from NPR

The Number One expert on the foodways of the African Diaspora is Jessica B. Harris. I have interviewed her as a source for articles and she is just wonderful. More on Ms. Harris here.

Chopped right!

Chopped right!

Guingambó guisado (Stewed Okra Criollo style)

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

½ Cup onion, chopped fine

¼ Cup red pepper, chopped

1 Tbs garlic, minced

¼ Cup jamón de cocinar (or ham steak) diced

1 -2 Tbs sofrito (commercial or homemade) or 1-2 Tbs of minced green/red cubanelle pepper and cilantro

1 lb okra, cut in ½”rounds

4 Cups water

Salt to taste

Heat the oil and sauté all ingredients but the okra, water and salt until tender and fragrant. Add the okra and water, bring to a boil, then lower and simmer for 20 minutes. Salt to taste and serve with white rice.

 

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13 Responses to “Guingambó Guisado (Stewed Okra) Even if you think it’s gooey, you’ll like the food history”

  1. The Mouse July 18, 2014 at 6:11 pm #

    Okra and ham, wonderful combination. I prefer stewed over fried. A quick stir fry is good too (with BACON!) :)

  2. lulu July 18, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    I do like the history, but when it comes to okra I’ll take mine fried.

  3. Mad Dog July 18, 2014 at 7:26 am #

    Wow – I’ve never seen red okra, but the green variety is vey popular in Indian, as well as Caribbean food, so there’s lots to be had in London. Your guingambó guisado recipe sounds very good ;-)

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy July 18, 2014 at 7:28 am #

      It is simple and nice. i am really looking forward to frying it. And an Indian colleague of mine keeps promising to show me her bindi masala recipe….

      • Mad Dog July 18, 2014 at 7:49 am #

        That’s definitely another good one with okra :-)

  4. Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy July 23, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    You are so welcome! Can I come for a visit?

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Food Recipes | Food Recipes - July 30, 2014

    […] Guingambó Guisado (Stewed Okra) Even if you think it's … http://hotcheapeasy.com/Guingambó Guisado (Stewed Okra) Even if you think it's gooey, you'll like the food history … Tags: African influence in Puerto Rican cooking, comida criolla, cooking, food, food history, guingambó, guisos, okra, recipes, stew. […]

  2. Thanks Natalia for the Recipe , great for this weeks box ! | Productos Sana - July 23, 2014

    […] Stewed Okra […]

  3. Recipes For Kids | Food Recipes - July 18, 2014

    […] Guingambó Guisado (Stewed Okra) Even if you think it's … http://hotcheapeasy.com/Usually bright green, there are gorgeous red varieties too (the red color doesn't really hold up in cooking, unfortunately). … Gumbo, that deservedly beloved stew cook-up from the New Orleans area,was thickened with okra and probably gets its name from that same African word that sounds like guingambó, although you might think that “gummy” has something to do …. Neighborhood Pizzerias Get Kids Cooking at Pizza Parties ediblelongisland.com/eat/neighborho… […]

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