The pao-ers that be

Updated: Oct 31, 2019, 07:47 IST | Suman Mahfuz Quazi | Mumbai

We spoke to some of Mumbai's oldest bakeries run by the Parsi and Muslim communities to discuss this city's love affair with the pillowy bread

Knead to eat

For a space that is home to a large number of treats, ranging from crumbly cookies to spongy cakes, it's astounding that City Bakery's primary footfall comes from this all-time favourite bread. Mehdi Dashti, owner of the bakery, which has been around since 1950, remarks, "Mumbai is like a large stadium where everyone is on the go. As such, for us, pao is perfect because you can just slap a vada in the middle and move on. No one has time to make chapathis here."

Mehdi Dashti

At City Bakery, Dr Annie Besant Road.
Time 5 am to 11 pm
Call 24931215

Pics/Ashish Raje
Pics/Ashish Raje

The big and the small

While it's difficult to trace this little-known bakery's origins beyond 1971, when the Christian family from Mazgaon that owned Philomena Bakery passed the baton on to the Siddiquis — a group of seven brothers who now helm the pao paradise — it is a go-to for the neighbourhood's bread eaters. Ejaz Siddiqui, one of the brothers, shrugs us off initially, "Speak to Wibs or Britannia; we are just a small bakery." A little prodding, and we learn that Philomena churns out pao worth 10 to 12 flour bags of 50 kg each.

At Philomena Bakery, D Koyande Road, Wadi Bunder, Mazgaon.
Time 5.30 am to 11 pm
Call 23778400

Pic/Suresh Karkera
Pic/Suresh Karkera

Track record

We have all kinds of paos, whether it is medium-sized ones or smaller ladi paos. A lot of the locals here are our customers, but the cyclewallahs who deliver pao at the doorsteps, also buy from us," shares Sheikh Mohammed, who works at Grant Road's Railway Bakery, an unassuming little space that stores a range of everyday confections like breads and biscuits.

At Railway Bakery, Raja Rammohan Roy Road, Grant Road.
Time 7 am to 10 pm
Call 23851561

Hitting a century

Hitting a century

Around for 100-odd years, Roshan Bakery in Byculla East caters to all sorts of customers, including the popular Regal Bakery that is known for their no-nonsense eats. An initially tetchy shopkeeper on the phone tells us he has no time to waste. This makes sense, for the bakery churns out pao worth almost 900 kg of flour daily. "We have pao in all sizes and have bruns and ladis, too," Pratap, tells us in a hurry.

At Roshan Bakery, Hathibaug, Mazgaon.
Time 5.30 am to 11.30 pm
Call 23722257

Did you know?

. Unlike most other bakeries that ready their paos in a single batch, A1 Bakery in Bandra West makes it all day.

What's in a name?

The origin of the word pao is disputed. The most prevalent explanation is that, "It comes from the Portuguese word for bread, pão," anthropologist Kurush Dalal tells us. Some say that the bread was called so because it weighed one-fourth of a kilo i.e. pao; while others suggest the name comes from pav or feet, which bakers use for kneading.

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