Have you ever wondered where those delicious middle-eastern and Indian breads that you so heartily devour, originated from? When I travel, I usually eat local and that has, over the years become an essential part of my identity. I love trying local cuisine, with the local community, although exotic for my taste, has become their staple for centuries. However, it always drives me to discover the origin of these culinary cultures. How did the world as we see it today, take its shape into so many microcosms of cultures, that even a lifetime is not enough to uncover? It also piqued my curiosity when I was recently stranded at Istanbul Airport and decided to indulge in some Turkish Delights while I was there to alleviate my dampened spirits. It was comforting to try the Turkish Naan that was eerily similar to all my favourites in North India! 

Tandoor is a big clay oven used to prepare delectable meals such as tandoori chicken, kebabs, and naan. In this blog article, we will look at the history and culture of tandoor bread, one of the world’s oldest and most flexible breads.

Tandoor bread is a catch-all word for any bread cooked in a tandoor, a cylindrical oven heated by charcoal or wood fire. The dough is often created using flour, water, yeast, and salt, as well as additional ingredients like as yoghurt, milk, eggs, or spices. The dough is formed into balls and flattened into thin discs before being slapped onto the hot tandoor’s interior walls. In the intense heat and smoke, the bread bakes quickly, resulting in a crispy crust and a soft interior. Long metal skewers or hooks are then used to retrieve the bread.

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Tandoor bread may be eaten simple or loaded with cheese, meat, veggies, or nuts. Herbs, seeds, or butter may also be added to season it. Tandoor bread, depending on its size and content, may be consumed as a snack, a side dish, or a main dinner. It may also be wrapped around or dipped into other cuisines such as curries, salads, or sauces.

Tandoor bread’s origins are unknown, however it is said to have been originated by nomadic tribes of Central Asia. The bread was typically prepared in a portable clay oven called a tandir or tandoor, which nomads could readily move as they travelled around the area. The oven was also used to cook skewered meat and vegetables.

Tandoor is derived from the Persian word tanur, which is derived from the Akkadian word tinuru, which means “mud oven.” Tannur has been used in many Asian and African languages, including Arabic (tannur), Armenian (tonir), Georgian (tone), Hebrew (tanur), Turkish (tandir), and Somali (tinaar).

Tandoor ovens were first discovered approximately 2600 BC in the Indus Valley Civilization, one of the world’s oldest known civilizations. Archaeologists have discovered clay oven remnants with signs of cooked food at sites such as Kalibangan in India and Harappa in current day Pakistan. Ancient civilizations in Egypt and Mesopotamia also employed the tandoor oven.

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Tandoor bread expanded around the globe as a result of commerce, migration, and conquest. The Persians were among the first to spread tandoor cooking to other parts of the world, including Central Asia, Afghanistan, and India. The Mughals, who controlled India from the 16th through the 19th centuries, were particularly fond of tandoor food and popularised it among royalty and aristocracy. They also spread it across their empire, which includes the region of today’s Bangladesh and Pakistan.

The British were so obsessed with tandoori cuisine that they carried it back to Europe. They also took it to other colonies, including South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Tandoor cooking made its way to Southeast Asia through Indian merchants and immigration. Tandoor cooking has recently gained popularity in North America and other areas of the globe as a result of globalisation.

Tandoor bread may be found in a variety of cuisines and civilizations. Here are a few noteworthy examples:

Naan: One of the most well-known forms of tandoor bread is naan. It is a leavened flatbread from India that is currently popular across South Asia and beyond. Naan can be eaten simply or with garlic, cheese, herbs, or seeds. It may also be packed with keema (minced beef), paneer (cottage cheese), or aloo (potato). Naan is traditionally served with curries or grilled meats.

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Roti: Another sort of tandoor bread that originated in India is roti. It is a thinner and smaller unleavened flatbread than naan. Roti is produced using wheat flour or other grains such as millet or sorghum. Roti may be eaten plain or with oil or ghee (clarified butter). 

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It is interesting to travel back when I indulge in heritage cuisine from around the world. It humbles me as well as fuels me with the quest to discover these hidden stories in gullies of locales that have stood the test of time and never fail to leave me mouth agape and with a blissful belly!

Written by Pooja Nataraj


  1. Tandoor bread – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tandoor_bread.
  2. Tandoor – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tandoor.
  3. Tandir Bread – Traditional Azeri Bread | 196 flavours. https://www.196flavors.com/tandir-bread/.
  4. A Tandoor Oven Brings India’s Heat to the Backyard – New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/11/dining/a-tandoor-oven-brings-indias-heat-to-the-backyard.html.
  5. History of the Naan | DESIblitz. https://www.desiblitz.com/content/history-of-the-naan.