The Moña Bread of Panama

Last Saturday, we drove over to Riva Smith Supermarket early morning to buy two moña breads for our Christmas dinner, before the place was flooded with people waiting for the last minute to buy the precious bread.

Even though it was early, about eight o’clock, the place was packed.  We had problems parking our car.  Every single parking space of their parking lot was occupied.  No problem, we left the vehicle about two blocks away and walked.  The walking exercise was good for my high blood pressure.

The price for the large moña bread went up one dollar.  Each moña bread can be had for $14.85, which is pretty steep for our standards, but we had no choice—it was either/or.

Now we’re ready for our Christmas Eve dinner and all our Holiday purchases have been made.  We were able to stay away from the roaring crowd of the malls and the supermarkets during the last days of shopping before Christmas.  It’s impossible to do anything these days.  Long lines, traffic jams, irresponsible driving, too much booze and the list goes on and on.  Every years it’s the same rat race in the city—the frenzy to buy doesn’t seem to go away.  In fact it’s getting worse.

For those of you who are not familiar with the moña bread, let me expand by saying it is the most sought out food in Panama for Christmas.  For us Panamanians a moña bread is to Christmas what a pumpkin is to Halloween in the States.  I can not even imagine a Christmas without a moña bread.

What is a moña bread you might ask?  Well let me explain.  Pan de moña in itself is difficult to define because the range goes from a very lean challah-like bread, to an ultra rich sweet brioche-like bread. The challah-like bread would be your everyday bread. The super rich sweet brioche-like one would be something you serve on special occasions, like Christmas for example.

In Panama, if you visit the supermarkets during the holiday season in December, you will see these special pan de moña everywhere, golden brown and heavily sprinkled with sliced almonds. The common denominators throughout the range are only eggs and a sweet component (either sugar or honey). But really, most times, pan the moña is something in between these two extremes.

Since pictures are better than words, below I’ve inserted several snapshots of two moña breads we recently purchased at Riva Smith Supermarket.  One is for us and the other is for the Twisters.  Here we go.

Snapshot of two packages of moña breads neatly packed in cellophane bags baked by the Riva Smith Supermarket in Panama City, Panama. For us, it’s the best moña bread in the country. Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.
Photo by ©Omar Upegui R.

Tonight it’s Christmas Eve–the night when Jesus Christ, the son of God was born.  I take this opportunity to wish all our readers of Lingua Franca, the Merriest of Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.  May all your dreams come true.  Good Day.

13 thoughts on “The Moña Bread of Panama”

  1. It looks delicious! And you’re right – it does look much like the challah that I enjoy here, as well as the saffron buns that my grandmother would make.

    Isn’t it good to be done with preparations and ready to celebrate? I still have a few little things to do, but they don’t require going anywhere – thank goodness!

  2. Howdy Linda:

    We’re done for this year, Linda. Plan to stay glued to our home away from the craziness in the city. Home Sweet Home is such a cozy phrase, if you understand what I mean.

    Happy Holidays,


  3. I really like your website, and every day I open my e-mail box just looking this e-mail because I really enjoy to read it. Thanks for your time and Merry Christmas. God bless you and your family .

  4. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family. Enjoy your blog.

    It is very interesting and entertaining. Roy

  5. Oh, and I was doing so good forgetting “pan de huevo” until now! 🙂

    Morning Omar,

    I am hoping that Nena’s sister here with us will be baking some for tomorrow’s festivities. One of my best memories was walking my future bride home after the dance (in what we call the “wee hours”) and stopping at Lucianito’s for sweet bread rolls and real butter near Ave. B y Calle 11.

    Wishing you and Aura and the Twisters and their parents a very Merry Christmas.
    jim and nena

  6. Howdy Jim & Nena:

    Yep, I can understand how badly you must miss the Panamanian Moña. Once you taste it, you will remember the flavor forever. Just ask Nena and she will nod her head, so will her sister. 🙂

    Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year to you and your family.

    Happy Holidays,


  7. Hola Jaime:

    Igualmente, le deseo que disfrute una Feliz Navidad y un Próspero Año Nuevo junto con sus seres queridos. En cualquier viaje a Panamá Usted puede saborear una deliciosa rosca de Riva Smith.



  8. I am so glad I found your page. I lived in Panamá years ago and loved this bread! I didn’t know what it was called but as soon as I saw the fotos you posted above, I knew this was it. You are so right that once you’ve tasted this bread, you never forget it!

    1. Hello Cathy d:

      You’re absolutely right. A Christmas or New Year without a Moña Bread is not a real Christmas. Everybody, and I literally mean everybody has a moña bread during these end of the year festivities.

      Thank you for your generous comments.



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