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Feature 06 Jun 16

Sarajevo Bakery Braces for Ramadan Bonanza

Sarajevo's Poricanin bakery is keeping alive a long family tradition of baking 'somuni' bread - attracting customers from all over the Bosnian capital, especially during the Ramadan fast.

Rodolfo Toe
BIRN
Sarajevo
Mehmed Poricanin with his somuni. Photo: BIRN

Sarajevo residents will start forming a long queue on Monday evening outside the Poricanin bakery in Sarajevo's Old Town, as the Holy month of Ramadan - when Muslim believers fast from dawn to dusk - starts on June 5.

"Customers usually start arriving around 6pm from every part of the city ... and they will wait for two hours just to buy my somuni," baker Mehmed Poricanin told BIRN.

Somun - a traditional flat bread - is common in all parts of the Balkans once ruled by the Ottomans. Baked at a very high temperature of around 500 °C, it is ready in one minute.

"It truly is the simplest type of bread in the world ... you just need water, flour, salt and yeast," Poricanin says, noting that "this kind of bread arrived in the region with the Ottoman soldiers who needed to prepare their meals very quickly."

Workers at Poricanin bakery preparing somuni. Photo: BIRN

The Poricanins have been bakers in Sarajevo for three generations. Mehmed's uncle, Muharem, started the firm way back in 1923, more than 90 years ago. His daughter, Amela, continued the business.

Mehmed, who is now 73, started working in the bakery when he was only eight years old. Even during the siege of Sarajevo, from 1992 to 1995, he went on producing bread - mainly for the army.

"During those years, we produced around 3.5 million loaves," Poricanin says, proudly.

Given its long tradition, it is no wonder that the bakery has gained a huge following in Sarajevo where many locals remain loyal to the business.

"This is particularly true in Ramadan, when the traditional recipe of somun is enriched with black cumin, which gives it a distinct taste," Porocanin explained.

"We are one of the very few bakeries in Sarajevo that prepare this kind of traditional bread ... which is why so many people are willing to come and wait for so long to buy the somuni they need for their Ramadan dinners," he adds.

Sarajevo residents standing in line in front of Poricanin bakery during Ramadan. Photo: Zana Muninovic on Istagram.

The baker says some people actually enjoy the business of patiently queuing in line for one of his famous somuni.

"Once between the customers in a line outside the shop I saw an old friend - and I told to get the bread he needed, so that he would not have to wait too long," he recalled.

"The next day, when I met him again, he told me not to do this again. He said he had come from Dobrinja [a suburb nine kilometres away] where he lives, and was enjoying his time [in the queue] talking with friends that he hadn't seen in years," Poricanin concluded.

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