A DC Shabbat can be anything from a service at one of the several synagogues across town, a vegan dinner of buddha bowls and trolley fries at the 100% plant-based Pow Pow (nourished by OneTable), or perhaps a dinner of coconut noodles and tea leaf salad at a Burmese bodega in Union Market.
The diversity of Shabbats in DC, and the opportunity for each of us to create these dinners and push the boundaries even further, are some of my favorite qualities of DC. Plus, these Shabbats give us the chance to be introduced to wonderful new food and people.
The latter Shabbat experience of a Burmese bodega was exactly where I found myself last Friday, seated around a table of people hungry for an adventure to Burma (also known as Myanmar).
Toli Moli, which means “a little of this and a little of that,” is the Burmese snack shop from mother-daughter team Simone Jacobson and Jocelyn Law-Yone (Chef Jojo) where this Shabbat took place. And a little of this, and a little of that, is just what these two women brought to the table. Throughout the evening, Simone and Jocelyn provided us with a warmth of hospitality and family stories along with every delicious bite.
L’dor va’dor is a commonly sung prayer that means “from generation to generation.” In Judaism, passing down traditions is an integral part of the religion – from your family’s favorite matzo ball soup to the way you fold your hamataschen – food is one of the best vehicles to transport these customs. The practice of l’dor va’dor is a global concept, and one that inspired this Shabbat evening with OneTable, JDC Entwine, and Toli Moli. Unbeknownst to the organizers when planning the event, Toli Moli is not only an intergenerational concept, but also one with a strong Jewish connection!
As the only Burmese eatery in DC, Simone sees Toli Moli as not just a legacy for her own family, but also for her heritage. Growing up in Arizona with a Burmese mom and a Jewish dad, Simone’s Asian-American appearance gave her a sense of pride and provided her with a way to connect with similar people. Although Simone’s childhood best friend (who was of Thai-American descent) may not have grown up eating falooda like she did, her friend’s Thai heritage had a similar concept with Nam Manglak and the more familiar bubble tea.
Seen as an “international connector” and the foundation for Toli Moli, falooda is a fruity-layered dessert made with jellies, basil seeds, milk, and ice cream. The bodega of Toli Moli is stocked with falooda, as well as Asian pantry items, locally made DC products and, of course, a Burmese menu full of noodles and sandwiches.
By bringing falooda, a dessert that is eaten all around the world, to DC, Toli Moli creates an environment where everyone can feel at home.
Toli Moli is a place where everyone can find connections both to the food and to the intergenerational family that welcomes you as soon as you step inside – a place where everyone can have their own “toli moli moment”.
About the Author: Judith Rontal hails from wintry Ann Arbor, Michigan, where she grew up in a family that always managed to eat dinner together, even if that was at 10 pm. She’s continued that connection between food, family and culture in her blog, Aluminum Foiled Kitchen, and in her daily life in DC where she works in PR, focusing on media relations. When not in the kitchen working on a new recipe to serve at her next dinner party, you can find Judith sweating it out at yoga or running the Rock Creek Park trails. Follow her food adventures on Twitter and Instagram.
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