WASHINGTON — A new pop-up is giving locals a taste of an exotic treat from abroad.
In Burma and other parts of Southeast Asia, Toli Moli means “a little bit of this and that” — and that’s exactly what falooda is. It’s a tall glass filled with different layers of varying textures and colors. The spoon that comes with it also functions as a straw.
Is it a dessert or a drink? That choice is up to you.
Jocelyn Law-Yone and Simone Jacobson are the mother-daughter team behind Toli Moli, and their goal is to bring back the sit-down snack.
“Communal snack time is something that we really care a lot about,” says Jacobson, who also works as a manager at the restaurant El Centro D.F. on 14th Street. “There’s a lack of snack culture in this country. It’s such a solitary activity.”
And it is, if you think about it.
Vending machines full of prepackaged, individually wrapped snacks make it possible to eat on the move, eliminating the possibility of just taking a break.
“We want people to enjoy that small delicious pause, and we want them to have something that they can feast on with confidence,” Jacobson says.
Falooda, ubiquitous across most of Southeast Asia and the Middle East, comes in many forms. At its most recognizable, the snack is shockingly pink in color, piled high with layers of creamy topping and chopped pistachios. The color comes from rosewater syrup, an essential ingredient in any falooda.
“There’s definitely a pocket of people who, if they’ve lived in parts of the world where falooda is served, know it like you would know peanut butter and jelly,” Jacobson says.
Toli Moli will sell three different versions of falooda. The tropical-tasting Mango Mogul, which is vegan and gluten-free, has fresh mango, coconut shavings and mango-carrot jellies. Royal falooda, a twist on the standard version, has pomegranate-ginger jellies, ginger milk and pumpkin seeds, along with homemade rosewater syrup. The Black Eye falooda — made with iced coffee, coffee jellies and a marshmallow-oat crumble — is both a sweet treat and a caffeinated pick-me-up.
Each dessert is assembled by hand with careful attention to detail. The Mango Mogul begins with a layer of rosewater syrup — Law-Yone’s version is flavored with cranberry and ginger — and vegan mango-carrot jellies. On top of that, she puts a heaping scoop of basil seeds, a digestive superfood that hasn’t achieved the same popularity that chia seeds and hemp hearts enjoy.
The next layer raises eyebrows from some. Law-Yone adds cellophane noodles, popular in Asian stir fry dishes, to the fruity dessert.
“I’ve had a lot of feedback on this. Some people aren’t sure they want a noodle in their dessert,” she says.
She covers the noodles with a combination of almond and coconut milk, mixed with a syrup made of ginger, turmeric and lime. Then, mango gelato, coconut shavings, fresh mango and pistachios top it off. It’s a hefty snack, but a healthy one.
“We’re not selling diet foods, we’re not selling the next thing that’s going to make you lose weight. It’s sweet and it’s a treat, but it’s not bad for you,” Jacobson says. “There’s nothing in it that’s harmful to your body in any way.”
Some people may eye the hot pink rosewater syrup with suspicion, but even that’s all-natural. The color, Law-Yone says, is very important. The syrup recipe was developed over six months of testing.
“I get the berries, I boil it, I sift it, and if it’s not the right clarity then I have to sift it again, so it’s really a labor of love,” Law-Yone says. “And it’s all fresh. Everything.”
Toli Moli opens at 11 a.m. at EatsPlace on Jan. 30. Law-Yone and Jacobson will assemble and serve faloodas until 3 p.m. For more information, visit the EatsPlace website.