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Popular Ice Cream Pop-Up Malai Opens Permanent Scoop Shop in Cobble Hill

Malai has globally inspired flavors such as sweet roti and masala chai

A person holding a turquoise bowl with white ice cream and a silver spoon in the bowl Morgan Ione Photography/Malai [Official Photo]

A new ice cream parlor opens in Cobble Hill on Saturday, serving up flavors from around the world such as Turkish coffee, masala chai, ginger root, and orange fennel.

Malai — at 268 Smith St., between Degraw and Sackett streets — comes from owner Pooja Bavishi, who started the business while she was in business school at NYU. She sold her first scoop at Hester Street Fair in May 2015 and then went on to Smorgasburg, Gotham West Market at the Ashland, and popped up in the Cobble Hill location before opening permanently in the space.

Malai’s ice creams are all eggless, and Bavishi said she flavors them the way she had always seen her North Indian parents season savory dishes: with an emphasis on being strongly spiced. The most popular option is rose with cinnamon-flavored almonds, a flavor Bavishi almost didn’t make because she thought it wouldn’t be “accessible” enough, she says.

“New York audiences always prove me wrong,” she says.

Pooja Bavishi
Pooja Bavishi
Morgan Ione Photography/Malai [Official Photo]

Twenty-two ice creams are available for sale on Malai’s website, and some are available at Whole Foods, Dean & DeLuca, and other specialty retailers in the New York area and beyond. Of the dozen flavors that will be available at the Smith Street storefront, 11 will be classic and one will rotate out each month.

For March, the special is sweet roti and ghee, a flavor made by infusing roti into the ice cream base and adding a crumble of ghee, jaggery, and roti. There are also toppings for the first time: a cookie crumble made from a cardamom-and-cocoa nib shortbread called nankhatai as well as chikki, a South Asian jaggery-based brittle. The full menu is below.

Malai is opening in community-focused Cobble Hill, where there are plenty of other ice cream shops nearby, including Van Leeuwen, MilkMade, and Milk Bar.

“There’s a lot of ice cream in the area but everyone’s like, ‘Everyone will do great.’ I love it, I love this area,” Bavishi says. “The neighborhood is so welcoming and so open to new flavors.”

Malai is open daily from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m., with plans to increase hours once it gets warmer. Here’s a look at the space:

Sonia Chopra/Eater

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