It is assumed that this very simple and enticing bread was brought to this part of the world by the Turkish army, since it was all about having a baked good that could be produced in large quantities very quickly, making it the perfect food for soldiers on long marches.
The popularity that somun enjoys today is due, in large part, to Sarajevo aščinicas and ćevabdžinicas, because it goes with the food served at these traditional eateries.
Ramadan somuns are different from those available the rest of the year, since the ones served during Ramadan are sprinkled with black cumin seeds.
Somun and paklama
Mehmed Meho Poričanin’s bakery (Safvet-bega Bašagića 16), which is located just a bit above the taxi rank in Baščaršija, is known far and wide for its somun and other baked goods, including paklama, a special item prepared for the Muslim eid holidays: the Ramadan feast and the feast of the sacrifice.
During Ramadan, the Poričanin bakery produces 3,000 somuns per day, and the lines in front of the shop before iftar can stretch for 100 m, an impressive sight in Sarajevo during Ramadan.
The Poričanin baking tradition started with Mehmed’s uncle, Muharem, who moved from Gornji Vakuf to Sarajevo right after the end of WWI.
After completing his training to become a baker in 1923, Muharem opened a bakery in Bistrik and later moved to Hrid and then to Gorica. In 1953, after thirty years of renting, he bought his own shop and opened a bakery, where it stands to this day.
When he was eight years old, Mehmed Meho Poričanin learned all about baking from his Uncle Muharem. He took over the business in 1969, following the death of his aunt and uncle.
After decades of hard work, Mehmed acquired the reputation of being a master baker.
During the last war, he and his family baked around 3.5 million breads for the defenders of Sarajevo, and the bakery also served civilians of this besieged city.
After the war, the bakery expanded its assortment, and in 2016, the Poričanin family decided to try another business. They opened a luxury hotel, Aziza, in Ploče, not far from the Ploče gate-tower, which houses the Alija Izetbegović Museum.
The hotel is named after Mehmed’s wife, Aziza. They have been married since 1970 and have three daughters (Elmedina, Amela and Selma). The middle daughter, Amela, runs the family business and, in this way, carries on the Poričanin tradition.
The room numbers in Aziza Hotel represent important years in the Poričanin family: when Muharem Poričanin opened his first bakery, and the birthyears for Mehmed, Aziza and their daughters and grandchildren.