The term "baraaat" refers to the traditional procession that defines Indian nuptials, during which the groom rides a white horse, an elephant or a fancy car while his family dances behind him towards the bride, who is somewhere inside the wedding venue. So exciting, memorable and unique was Ruth Li's own baraat when she got married in India in February of 2020, that it actually inspired her next career move.
Of Chinese descent but born and bred in Brooklyn, 27-year-old Li decided to open up her Indian-inspired ice cream business, Baraat Ice Cream, in July of 2020, after losing her job as an assistant buyer at a clothing company due to COVID-19.
"Food was always taken seriously in my family household so I always enjoyed it," she recalls, explaining that marrying an Indian man and traveling to the Asian country helped propel her idea forward. "There are so many crossovers between Indian desserts and other cultures so I thought I could merge Indian flavors with American desserts," she explains. "And because baraat is about family and weddings, I named all of my flavors after people involved in the wedding process."
Those flavors include the Golden Couple, one of her most popular products, prepared with a tropical mango base, mango jam and sweet golden Oreos; the Unexpected Dancer, boasting an Oreo base with cherry brownie and white chocolate swirls; the Maid of Honor, made with a turmeric base with blueberry jam swirl and pecan pie cake cubes; the Bride, featuring a pistachio paste blended into a base of vanilla cake; and Wedding Crashers, with chana daal, mustard seeds and a bay leaf base.
Every Monday, Li posts a weekly menu of four-to-five rotating ice cream flavors and sandwiches on her Instagram account, receives orders through DMs and gets to work: every single half-pint she sells is made-to-order by the company's founder in her own Brooklyn apartment. Li also delivers the orders herself all over New York City.
Although one of many Instagram-fueled businesses in the time of COVID-19, Baraat Ice Cream's creative-yet-accessible treats are sure to find steady footing in a city like New York, where an abundance of ethnic foods defines the local culinary scene. At the very least, Li hopes to amass enough fans to move her project to a commercial kitchen in the near future. We have faith that's going to happen pretty soon.
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