Food Tales

Scooped in Brooklyn: Indian Ice Cream That Is Out of This World

by Jeralyn Gerba
Photo courtesy of Malai.

The first Malai pint was Sweet Milk, which we found in the freezer case at Marlow & Daughters, a specialty foods shop in Williamsburg. This was during the second summer of pandemic times, when ice cream taste-testing had become a regular ritual in my house. The kids went crazy for the condensed milk in ice cream form. It was an immediate hit. My husband then turned up one day with Masala Chai: It hints of black pepper and cinnamon and feels as spicy and comforting as a cup of tea. The kids dove right into the tangy mango and cream. More pints followed. Turkish Coffee, Sweet Corn Saffron, and then, my personal favorite: Rose with Cinnamon Roasted Almonds.

We did our internet research into the local company, which began as an experiment in Indian flavors. We waxed on and on about how every bite delivers a burst of flavor, yes, but also tradition, culture, hospitality, and history! How could it be so light and airy, yet chewy and decadent? How did they get this perfect ratio of caramel to dates in the Caramel Date? Could someone please pass me the Sweet Roti & Ghee?!

It went on like this for weeks.

At some point we found out that there was a storefront in Cobble Hill, just a few neighborhoods over from us. What luck. Pooja Bavishi, Malai’s founder, was inside the little pink scoop shop on Smith Street. She talked about combining South Asian ingredients into an eggless base, churning it with inventive mix-ins (like dried ginger, star anise, homemade baklava), and experimenting with unexpected twists along the way. We got into the sorbets, the toppings, the colorful cones.

And while the most fun and inventive experimenting may happen at her Brooklyn shop, everyone around the United States can get in on the sweet action. Malai’s pints, ice cream cakes, cookies, and sandwich kits are available nationwide through Goldbelly. I recommend the six pint collection of signature flavors, though you can mix and match from the two dozen options for a choose-your-own-dessert-adventure feast.

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