NYC-based Pooja Bavishi’s ice cream company, Malai, is taste-testing cultural boundaries
With a flurry of Indian spices like fennel, turmeric and cinnamon
Pooja Bavishi, the brainchild behind one of NYC’s coolest ice cream companies, Malai, is not a pedigreed chef. But she’s always had a knack for experimenting with flavours in the kitchen and loved her mother’s Tarla Dalal cookbooks.
Bavishi, who started her venture in 2015, serves a variety of ice cream flavours, from rose with cinnamon roasted almonds to masala chai. While the NYU graduate had a host of things to figure out before she launched her company—like finding the best commercial ice cream machine and how to break through a super saturated industry—the one thing the 35-year-old was always sure of was the brand name ‘Malai’. “I wanted a name that evokes culture, luxury and deliciousness,” she explains.
The amateur-chefturned-entrepreneur credits her cross-cultural concoctions (her current favourite spiced peanut crunch for instance or the very first ice cream she made from fresh ginger root) to her upbringing. “I grew up in an Indian household, but in the States. Dinners included burritos with traditional Indian mint cilantro chutney or roti pizzas. Ice cream is the perfect way to combine these two cultures. Dairy inherently has a blank palette, and is the best vehicle to carry flavours and spices that I grew up with,” she adds.
Bavishi, thus, does not discriminate when it comes to desserts; she loves rabdi or kheer as much as she does a chocolate-chip cookie. “Chewy, cakey, crispy, thin, thick, I love them all,” she exclaims. Her goal for Malai is for it to be a globally recognised brand. In India, she’d like to open her first branch in Ahmedabad.
“It’s where I spent my childhood during summers, and I have many memories there. Malai is influenced by the cooking of my parents, aunts and grandmothers, and they spent a huge part of their lives there, so it would be special to pay that homage,” she says.