Malai Ice Cream
Malai Ice Cream is infused with the spices of founder Pooja Bavishi's Indian childhood. The subtle strength of ingredients like milk from local New York dairies and spices like black cardamom, royal cinnamon and rose bought from sustainable partners like Diaspora Co. and Burlap & Barrel make for an exquisite treat.
Ice Cream Spiced with Nostalgia
These ice creams are like a romance novel from South Asia—exotic, familiar, alluring.
A Conversation With...
When did you come up with the idea for Malai Ice Cream?
I had been dreaming up a dessert business for years, but the aha moment took place at a Friendsgiving I hosted in 2014, during my second-to-last semester of NYU business school. I made some ice cream to pair with other desserts that I had baked. When making the bases, I reached into my Indian spice drawer for flavors like ginger and star anise. After some encouragement from the friends at dinner that night, I decided to educate myself about the business and art of making ice cream. After a few months of conducting surveys and focus groups (and putting together the administrative side of the business), I launched in May of 2015 and sold my first scoop three weeks after graduation.
What is the process of making the ice cream?
We use local New York dairy and aim to source our spices and ingredients as ethically as possible. This means that we eliminate the middleman, ensure that spice farmers are paid fairly and that our customers will taste the freshest spices possible. We partner with Diaspora Co. for our cardamom and red chilies, Burlap & Barrel for our royal cinnamon, chai masala, black cardamom, cumin and garam masala, and Rumi for our saffron. We create our product in-house in Brooklyn.
What was your first entrepreneurial endeavor?
My parents have had their own business for as long as I can remember, and they always involved my sister and me in decisions, whether it was brainstorming names for a new brand or developing a budget for a new project. Even though I did not have my own entrepreneurial endeavor before Malai, I have always felt that the entrepreneurial spirit was in my DNA.
What is the connection between Malai and nostalgia?
My recipes have remained very similar to the batch of ice cream that I made for Friendsgiving in 2014. When I tasted the ice cream, the first thing I thought was: this tastes like home. What surprised me was that so many of my friends, with backgrounds very different from mine, said they also connected to the ice cream in a way that felt nostalgic.
One of my favorite moments of all was during the summer I first started: I had just sold a scoop of our Orange Fennel, and the woman who bought it walked away. I saw her take a bite and turn around to come back towards me. I, of course, immediately thought that there was something wrong with the ice cream. But instead she told me that her Italian grandmother used to make orange and anise cookies, and Malai's Orange Fennel ice cream reminded her of them. She thanked me saying that this ice cream brought back a memory that she hadn’t revisited in a long while.
Friends tell me that the Rose with Cinnamon Roasted Almonds reminds them of their mother's perfume; the Masala Chai flavor reminds them of Christmas; the Sweet Corn Saffron of summer barbecues.
What is your WHY?
Throughout my life, I have wanted to understand my culture, to feel a deeper connection to family traditions. I had a strong curiosity about how my parents grew up, about their journey and their adventures in India. I love that I have been able to incorporate family traditions into my ice cream and that, in turn, will create traditions and memories for my customers. This continuation of traditions and memories, and for Malai to be a part of that, is my why.