The best dessert you've never heard of? The founders of a new pop-up claim it's a Burmese treat called falooda. Simone Jacobson, a manager at El Centro D.F., and her mother Jocelyn Law-Yone, who grew up in Rangoon, Burma, are trying to give this parfait-like treat made of ice cream, basil seeds, flavored gelatin, and more its fro-yo moment. They're hosting a pop-up called Toli Moli at food incubator EatsPlace on Jan. 30 and plan to eventually open a shop featuring falooda and other Burmese sweets.
The Toli Moli pop-up will sell three flavors of falooda, all between $7 and $9. The "royal falooda" contains pomegranate-ginger gelatin or "jellies," basil seeds, vermicelli-like noodles, ginger milk, vanilla ice cream, and rose water syrup. It comes topped with pumpkin seeds and slivers of roasted almond. A mango falooda has mango-carrot gelatin, basil seeds, vermicelli-like noodles, turmeric milk, vanilla and mango ice cream or gelato, fresh mango, and crumbled pistachios. The third option has the same basic components plus coffee gelatin, condensed milk, iced coffee, vanilla ice cream, and a topping with roasted marshmallows, oats, coffee grinds, and bits of sugar cookie. "It's like Asian affogato," Jacobson says.
Falooda usually has all sorts of artificial, not-so-healthy ingredients mixed in, but Jacobson and Law-Yone are aiming to create an upgraded, more natural version.
The street snack originates from Iran (where it's known as faloodeh), and different versions of it can be found throughout the Middle East and Asia. In the Philippines, for example, there's halo halo. And in Vietnam, it's known as che ba mau. Jacobson and Law-Yone hope their pop-up will provide at least an introductory taste.
"Already people know very little about Burmese cuisine. And even on a national scale, I don't think most people know about any Asian desserts, let alone Burmese desserts," Jacobson says. "It is hard to describe, even if I tell you all the ingredients."
The mother and daughter team had for years been talking about opening a Burmese restaurant but ultimately have focused on the sweets of Law-Yone's childhood. They'll eventually also sell doldol (a gelatinous dessert made with coconut milk and forbidden black rice) and kulfi ice pops. "It's like this really rich and textured kind of ice cream. It's like eating spoonfuls of cake almost," Law-Yone says. She makes them with banana as well as pistachios and spices like cardamom.
Appropriately, the name Toli Moli is an Anglo-Indian expression used by the Burmese to mean "a little bit of this and a little bit of that."
If you miss the Jan. 30 pop-up, look out for other future pop-ups. Jacobson says they're also looking into having a presence at farmers markets.
Toli Moli at EatsPlaceDC, 3607 Georgia Ave. NW; tolimolidc.com
Photo by Les Joueurs Photography