What Noor Murad Wants You To Know About The Flavors Of Bahraini Cuisine - Exclusive

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Although the Ottolenghi Test Kitchen is named after its founder, Yotam Ottolenghi, he's not the head cook. The test kitchen, which creates recipes for Ottolenghi's cookbooks and other projects, is actually headed by Noor Murad. Yotam Ottolenghi's style of cuisine was influenced by growing up in Israel, and his sensibilities definitely guide the recipes produced by the test kitchen (via The New Yorker). However, the organization is driven by the collaboration of many minds, and Noor Murad's unique voice comes through as well.

Murad's approach to food is grounded in her upbringing in Bahrain. Although her British mother prepared classic English dishes at home, Murad got to explore Bahraini cuisine with her father, who took her to restaurants, street markets, and food vendors, per Happy Foodie.

Bahrain is a small island nation that sits off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf. Over its history, it has been ruled by people from many different cultures and has welcomed immigrants from far-flung places (via Britannica). Because of this, its cuisine takes from many different influences. In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Noor Murad explained what makes Bahraini food special.

Bahraini food is a mix of many cultures

Noor Murad emphasized that Middle Eastern cuisine is not monolithic and that there are significant regional differences in the food. "The Middle East is a very vast place — you have the Levant, you have North Africa, you have the Gulf, you have Iran," she explains. Per Britannica, Bahrain was ruled by the Persian Empire (modern-day Iran) for centuries, and that influence is evident in the food. "In Bahrain in particular, we use a lot of Persian flavors — a lot of herbs and sour flavors and dried limes from Iran." 

These Persian flavors are melded with tastes from other parts of the world as well. "We also have a lot of heavily spiced dishes, a lot of Indian spices, a lot of chutneys and spicy sauces on the side, and then a lot of very grand rice dishes," she says. Murad mentioned that Arabic cuisine plays a part in the flavors of Bahrain, too.

In addition to cultural factors, geography has also played a role in shaping how Bahrainis eat: "It's an island, so there's a lot of seafood." Despite Bahrain's small size, the island has produced a cuisine that can rival some of the world's great food cultures in terms of complexity and uniqueness.

"Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Extra Good Things" is in bookstores now. You can buy it on Amazon.