The best travel advice comes from the people who have done it all before. In this series, we ask well-traveled experts to share their memorable travel experiences.

Chef Noor Murad is described as ‘Bahrain-made, New York-trained’ by her mentor and co-author, Yotam Ottolenghi. She has worked in his test kitchen since 2016, and their latest book, Extra Good Things, features recipes showing simple steps to turn an easy weekday dinner into something special. Here she shares her travel and food passions with Lonely Planet.  

The last trip I took was to New York for work with Yotam for our book promotion. I took time there to visit Librae bakery, owned by a fellow Bahraini woman, Dona, and her American husband, Andre. Their loomi (black lime) and lemon curd babka were incredible. I feel a real sense of pride about Dona’s ability to bring traditional Bahraini flavors to classic patisserie and baked goods.  

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Librae bakery’s babka (left) and Katz’s deli’s Mazo soup ball soup (right) © Noor Murad

I can’t resist visiting Katz’s Deli anytime I’m in the city for their matzo ball soup. I never had matzo anything growing up, so the first time I tried matzo balls as an adult, I loved how comforting they were, soft and light and floating in this wonderful chicken broth. The soup at Katz’s Deli is genuinely one of the best I’ve had, with a very generous ball-to-broth ratio.

When I am away, I always like to travel on foot; if it’s within an hour, I’ll always walk it. Before I travel somewhere, I like to read other people’s experiences, whether through a blog or recommendations online, or from friends and acquaintances who might’ve been. I’ll usually book a few things in advance, like restaurants I’m really keen on going to or different experiences or trips requiring advance bookings. I’m not very rigid with my planning, though, and will always leave a good part of the trip to really get lost in discovery and see where the day takes me; some of my favorite memories have been spontaneous.

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Katz Deli NYC, home of the famous matzo ball soup  © Lonely Planet

An underrated destination for me is Oman, especially Salalah and Jabal Al Akhdar. It’s such a beautiful country that’s unique in its landscape, a sort of tropical desert. The hospitality is unmatched with the gentle spirit of its people, and I’d argue that in parts, Oman is so untouched that it feels like stepping back in time —F- in the best of ways.

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Oman, Jabal Akhdar, Two women looking at mountain view
The unique landscape of  Jabal Akhdar in Oman  © Westend61 / Getty

Omani food is familiar to me as the flavors are similar to those in Bahrain. Big flavors, generous spices, and rice being the main carb. Because of this familiarity, my trips to Oman are not very food-focused; I’m more drawn to exploring the beautiful landscape — which is just breathtaking. 

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If  I could be anywhere right now, it would have to be  South America; I love the food. When I lived in New York, I made friends from all corners of the world, but I was particularly drawn to those from central and south America. I could see a lot of overlap in our cultures: family-focused, music-obsessed, and a love for gathering everyone at the table. My friend, who is Mexican/El Salvadoran and an amazing chef, introduced me to pupusas, curtido, and the most amazing salsas, and consequently, there’s a recipe for Corn Dutch Baby with Curtido and Salsa Roja in Extra Good Things inspired by these flavors. 

The dish in Extra Good Things inspired by the flavors of El Salvador, Corn Dutch Baby with Curtido, and Salsa Roja

I discovered Colombian empanadas are quite possibly the best when I lived in a Colombian neighborhood in Brooklyn. The national dish, Bandeja Paisa, a hearty mix of rice, beans, meat, egg, avocado, and an arepa, can fill you up for a good 24 hours.

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