The only Indian sweets shop run by a Pakistani in Cardiff. Sambit checks out the delicacies.
Considering the rivalry between the two Asian neighbours, it’s tough to believe that a Pakistani is satisfying an Indian’s craving for homemade sweets on foreign soil.
Cardiff has indeed surprised. Being an Indian, and especially a Bengali, sweets are an integral part of our hospitality. Offering sweets or mithai or misti is a must if a guest comes home or during a religious function. You are bound to feel at home when someone offers you a ‘welcome thousands of miles away from home.
For the first time when I stopped in front of a shop with an Indian name, Pooja, on the Albany Road in Roath in Cardiff and found that it was a sweet shop run by a Pakistani, I instantly dismissed it to be another hybridsweets shop, with an influence of British desserts. I was soon proved wrong. It is a treasure trove of Indian sweets!
I wanted to find out the trademark sweets of the shop. “Which sweet will you recommend in your shop?” I asked the shop owner. “Which part of India are you from?” he asked. I told him the eastern part, and he offered something called kalakand, a sweet made of cottage cheese and sugar. It tastes almost similar to what I have at home. I am surprised. How can a typical Bengali misti from eastern part of India, Kolkata, finds a place on Pooja’s shelves?
Not only the sweets from the eastern part, you have choices like kaju barfi or ladoo which are typical sweets from north and western India. It’s a hard choice. They refuse to disclose the secret of making Indian sweets in Cardiff. The shop owner, however, points towards to the kitchen at the back of the shop where, he claims, he makes the sweets fresh. Everyday.
True! Every morning and evening, the shop puts up freshly-made jalebi on the shelf, exactly the way an Indian shop would.
So if you want to taste delicious Indian sweets, Pooja is highly recommended. It is not only restricted to sweets. Indian street food is a different genre altogether and Pooja offers quite a few ‘item numbers’. Be it samosa or chaat or pani poori, you get it all. In fact, a light lunch with Indian chapatti and curry is also available.
It might not be a great idea to visit Pooja in big groups. It’s not a perfect place to sit and dine. It has a limited seating area. The ambience, too, is not Indian. So you may be disappointed on that part. It can definitely be made a little more Indian with music and decor. Hope Pooja doesn’t only survive on BBC Radio Asia alone.
My Indian heart craves for more. I still miss one of my favourites, the trademark sweet from the eastern Indian part of the country, Roshogolla (cheese cottage ball dipped in sugary syrup). Pooja doesn’t make those. Neither can it produce a popular street food Kathi roll (chicken cubes wrapped in tortilla-type bread). Instead, you can pick up cheese roll, a popular Pooja product even among the nonIndians.
I know the British milk makes the sweets taste a little different, but they are almost perfect.
Don’t worry about the prices. They are reasonable between £8 and £12 per kg and you can order them online too.
I believe there cannot be a better advertisement of IndoPak brotherhood than Pooja Sweets in Cardiff.