The City has a plethora of ice cream parlors dishing out delicious sundaes, slushies, soft serves and scoops—great for cooling down as the weather warms up. To help narrow your search, start with this eclectic mix of ice creameries in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, all paying homage to distinctive flavors and classic desserts of Asia. Treat yourself to ice cream sandwiches made with gulab jamun (a sweet dessert made of milk solids with a doughy texture originating in India), a scoop of Thai iced tea or a cone flavored by the notoriously fragrant durian fruit.
Read on for six of the best places to taste Asian-inspired ice cream in NYC.
Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. Photo: Malcolm Brown
65 Bayard St, Chinatown, Manhattan; 135-15 40th Rd., Flushing, Queens; Essex Market, 88 Essex St., Lower East Side, Manhattan
For some 40 years, the original location of this family-run shop has been delighting dessert lovers with its extensive menu and fun flavor concoctions—now also available in their Flushing establishment and newest outlet on the Lower East Side. With options like mango, ginger, red bean, durian, coconut and almond cookie, the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory is beloved for its primarily East and Southeast Asian specialties. They also offer flavors like chocolate bacon, green tea Oreo, strawberry cheesecake and a year-round pumpkin pie. At the Essex Market outpost, patrons can sample new savory offerings like squid ink ice cream.
51-24 Van Loon St., Elmhurst, Queens
A Filipino specialty, halo-halo is a creamy, refreshing dessert featuring shaved ice, ice cream, leche flan, sweetened beans, jellies and tropical fruits. At this local favorite—a restaurant with a full food menu—diners are encouraged to share the generous servings with a friend or two. Make sure to mix together the toppings, shaved ice and ice cream (“halo-halo” translates to “mix mix”) before digging in.
Pooja Bavishi. Courtesy, Malai
268 Smith St., Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Pooja Bavishi has always loved experimenting with flavors. She remembers admiring how her parents could transform a blend of spices into a fragrant tea. Today she explores this passion by creating different ice cream flavors at her shop, Malai, which she opened in 2015. Batches of ice cream are handcrafted with locally sourced ingredients, and the flavors honor Bavishi’s South Asian roots. Try popular picks like rose with cinnamon roasted almonds (also available as an ice cream sandwich made with gulab jamun cakes), or spice things up with flavors like star anise, masala chai, pineapple pink peppercorn and red chili chocolate.
Courtesy, Minus Celsius
302 Grand St., Chinatown, Manhattan
Popular since the late aughts in parts of Southeast Asia, rolled ice cream caught on as a dessert trend worldwide. These frozen swirls are sometimes called “stir-fried ice cream” for the way they are made (various mix-ins chopped up and folded into a creamy base, done by spatulas on a chilled pan). At Minus Celsius, you can create your own flavors or order from set specialties like Matcha Madness (green tea base with Oreo cookies) and Summer Lovin’ (vanilla base with banana and lychee)—and add your choice of unlimited toppings.
116 E. 7th St., East Village, Manhattan
You can find mochi, a soft and chewy rice cake, in many Japanese dishes, from savory soups to celebratory sweets. Another popular iteration is mochi ice cream, an innovation credited to the late Japanese American entrepreneur Frances Hashimoto. At Mochii, all the components for the creamy, cold confection are made fresh in-house. Try flavors like taro, lychee and green tea. Served on a skewer, these portable little treats can be enjoyed on a walk in nearby Tompkins Square Park.
63 5th Ave., Park Slope, Brooklyn
Come to SkyIce for a home-cooked Thai dinner or just their popular ice cream. Family owned and operated for over a decade, this neighborhood spot serves flavors like white miso almond, roasted Thai coconut, lychee rose, raspberry cilantro and Thai iced tea (a customer favorite). If you can’t decide which scoop to get, consider a sampler of five flavors or spring for a platter to taste all 12. They also offer floats, sundaes, banana splits and ice cream sandwiches.