Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Tandoor the Middle Eastern clay oven, found from the Arab countries to India. The original Babylonian form of the name, tinûru, is probably related to nâr, the Semitic word for fire. In Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic, but not Persian, the ‘n’ is doubled: tannûr. The pronunciation tandur or tandir, current in Turkey, C. Asia, and India, reflects the emphatic Turkic pronunciation of the double n. In Egypt and N. Africa, the tandoor has largely been replaced by the European-style bread oven.

Unlike the European bread oven, which is made of brick, the tandoor is a piece of pottery (the Arabic al-tannûr has given Spanish its word for clay pipe, atanor). It is essentially a large clay jar with an opening toward the bottom for adding and removing fuel. Potters may sell ready-fired tandoors for installing in the home—in the wall or floor of the building, or outdoors, surrounded by more clay to make a beehive-shaped free-standing structure—or the pot may be built up in situ from soils of clay and fired from within.