Did you know that the greater Sooke region (from Port Renfrew to East Sooke) has about 30 restaurants and eateries? We’re a bit scarce on ethnic diversity though, and if you’ve had a craving for a nice Indian curry, you’re probably thinking that you’ll have to drive to The Big City for a bite.
Not any more.
There’s authentic Indian food to be had in Sooke, from a local business called Tastes of India. The reason why many don’t know about it is probably because there is no restaurant and no signage. So far, it’s been just word-of-mouth and social media.
The business is owned and managed by Pooja Barooah who hails originally from India. She received her MBA in the UK, and worked in Dubai as a realtor before she and her family landed here in Sooke. She is currently merging her passions (she’s an entrepreneurial soul with a foodie bent) and is slowly setting up culinary shop here in Sooke. Our palates will be the beneficiaries.
And having enjoyed a sampling of her offerings, this reporter can speak to the quality of the food. A look through her online menu speaks to the affordability. Because she has very little overhead (no building and no employees — and she cooks from a rented, certified kitchen), she passes those savings on to the consumer. For about $35, you can easily feed a family of four; $45 will satisfy four hungry adults.
For those who are unfamiliar with an Indian menu, or those who are more experimental, you can let Barooah build you a meal. Just let her know your dislikes (like, perhaps, coriander) and your heat tolerance, and she’ll quote you a price and prepare you something that should be to your liking.
According to her website Barooah is “a full-time mom who loves to cook.” She offers authentic Indian take-out in Sooke every Wednesday, and is currently in the process of setting up cooking classes.
“I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember,” she said in conversation, “and I’m the biggest experimenter that there is.” The major influences in the development of her culinary skill were her mother and her maternal grandmother.
“My mother is a really good cook. She hates cooking, but she’s such a good cook. My grandmother, my mother’s mother, is an amazing cook. … She can cook any meat dish to the perfect amount of salt without tasting it,” said Barooah. “I suppose it’s in my genes.”
Barooah is also into sharing the experience, and will teach you how to cook your own Indian food. Her Facebook page also offers up recipes in her Notes (facebook.com/tastesofindiainsooke/).
Her primary taste testers are her Norwegian husband, Bjørn Lodding and her one- year-old son, Aryan. Lodding, according to Barooah, is a very finicky eater, “and if he doesn’t like it, there is a chance that there is a significant amount of people that will not like it.” Their one-year-old son, Aryan, has already developed a tolerance for spicy food. Probably acquired during invitro, laughs Barooah.
The family of three, along with their two rescue dogs, have taken up residence in Sooke, and are loving it. They are currently here on a work visa through her husband, who works as a corporate trainer in Victoria. Barooah is intending to stay.
Should their permanency become a reality, Barooah would eventually love to have a food truck.
“It makes Indian food accessible,” said Barooah.
For the time being, there is an online menu on her website (TastesOfIndiaInSooke.com) along with a gallery of photos of her meals and her contact information. Order by Tuesday at noon, and pick up on Wednesday after 5 p.m. (She will contact you when your food is ready.)
The meals come individually packed with reheating instructions on the label.
There is nothing left for you to do but reheat accordingly, set the table and eat. Leftovers can easily be frozen for another day.