After spotting tiny black seeds in a tub of vivid pink nieve, I was sure I recognized the flavor. The proprietor called it pitaya, a name that seemed familiar, but then added a twist — she said it was a Mexican fruit, from a cactus.
Both of us were right. I just hadn't realized that the dragon fruit of Southeast Asia is known as pitaya, or pitahaya, in its native Central America. Dozens of varieties are now commercially grown in tropical regions around the world. I don't know which finds its way into El Comal's nieve, but I can say that cultivars with white flesh are often bland; magenta-fleshed cultivars are considerably more flavorful.
Previously: This taqueria's outdoor stand typically offers several other flavors of nieve, too, with the option of something extra: a chili-powdered cup and a liquid core of chamoy, a Mexican salty-sour-spicy-sweet sauce. I don't know how well the lemon, melon, or pineapple nieves would take to this treatment; mine (shown below, $3) was jicama, which provided a nearly blank slate for a surprisingly refreshing treat.
The full formal name would seem to be jicama nieve chamoyada, though you'll get fewer funny looks if you ask for a chamoy or a diablito. Do note that those shorter names also apply to concoctions made with ice. Almost without exception, streetside operations will feature an ice-crushing or ice-shaving device, or tubs of nieve, but not both; take your pick.
4711 Fifth Ave. (47th-48th Sts.), Sunset Park, Brooklyn