After all of the looping around South Island we were ready for some rest and relaxation by the time we hit Christchurch! I’ve put out the call on twitter and on the blog for Christchurch recommendations, and after a week of Lamb Shanks and steaks I’m ready for something different! Sadly I’m unable to source many New Zealand food blogs, and even less that focus on Christchurch, in the end I turn to DineOut and MenuMania, New Zealand’s equivalent of Eatability.
After all my scouring about online the one restaurant I really found intriguing was the Bodhi Tree, a Burmese restaurant with a recommended dish of Tea Leaf Salad! Luckily the restaurant was a mere 10 minutes walk from our hotel and as we’ve arrived at the start of the night, the waitress is able to squeeze us onto a table. The restaurant is tiny, fitting around 15 tables and I’m charmed by its orange walls and Burmese menus, within 30 minutes all the tables are packed and the restaurant is buzzing.
The philosophy of the Bodhi tree is rather simple, ‘to eat rice in the most appetizing way possible’. There is a big emphasis on making dishes which pair well with rice and are so flavourful that they urge you to eat more rice. An ideal meal should consist of meat, vegetable, salad, seafood and soup and the serving sizes are designed to be shared between a group with 3-4 dishes per person recommended. Encouraged by this we try to do our best to order our the majority of the menu.
The soup sounds irresistable to my still sick throat and I can’t resist ordering a starter of soup. I’ve never tasted Burmese food before but after looking at a map and seeing its proximity to countries like Thailand and Vietnam I begin to understand the type of flavours that we’ll be tasting tonight. The Ono Hin Ye has a tangy sensation to it, it has the texture of a rich Laksa soup with the kick I associate more with Tom Yum Goong. I love the soup and slurp down every drop, it’s made even better with a squeeze of lemon.
The Tea Salad is without a doubt the standout dish of the night, I have no idea what to expect when we order it but I find the array of nuts and seeds rather gorgeous on the plate and even more so after it has all been mixed together. I’ll be tracking down this recipe ASAP as I find the texture mix of the tea leaves with the crunch of the nuts irresistable and the chilli added is subtle, leaving me with a slight burning on the tongue (in a totally good way of course).
The tofu is a bit of a strange dish when it comes out, as I have initially thought that Split-pea Tofu is simply a variety I’ve never heard of before! I quickly figure out that the tofu has been coated in Split-pea flour and lightly deep fried, the result is a light almost fluffy tofu and my first bite I’m half convinced that I’m eating potato. It’s a bit sacrilegious for me to say this… but if all vegetarian dishes were like this, I could possibly give up meat. Maybe…
Astroboy and Rin share an enthusiasm for Squid which I’ve never really understood in the past, the texture is overly chewy and it’s never the first dish on my list to order or try. This dish just blew all my reservations away with the first bite, the texture is amazing and has none of the squeaky resistance I’ve come to associate with Squid.
What strikes me first about the fish when it comes out is the amazing smell of the tomato, tamarind based sauce, a quick taste confirms that it tastes as great as it smells. Unfortunately as great as this sauce is the tamarind flavour is very strong and drowns out the fish, I still don’t know what type of fish it was! The sauce is a favourite and we end up dripping the last of it over our rice.
Ordering the mushrooms is our attempt at balancing out the meat, seafood, vegetable ratio. Although the menu states that the mushrooms are roasted, the actual roasting is rather light and the lemon, olive oil dressing gives the mushrooms that make them seem almost as though they’re pickled. The cut of the dressing is great as a palate cleanser between the various meat dishes and the mushrooms quickly vanish.
Despite having eaten more lamb in the last week than I have for the entire year, I can’t resist adding it one last time (and it really is the last time I will eat lamb on this trip). The lamb marinade is deliciously spicy which pairs nicely with the mint dip.
The stock beef curry/stew is actually thinner than I had anticipated and the entire dish is closer to a beef soup than a stew. Rin and Astroboy aren’t fans of the texture of the meat which is a rather chewy chunk but tears apart easily when attacked by my fork, I quite enjoy the meat as my mother has often prepared meat in the same way at home for us.
There’s no way that we can leave a restaurant without having dessert! I’m torn between the ice-cream and Semolina & Coconut cake and decide to go halves with rin and order both. I don’t even know what Semonlina is when I order the cake, but instantly recognise its flavour at the first bite as its used often in asian desserts. The texture is much firmer than appears and the entire cake is similar to a giant jelly. A lot of Vietnamese jelly and desserts that I’ve grown up with are very similar to this dish and I quite enjoy it, although Astroboy and rin are not fans.
I love the strange and weird flavours that Asians come up with when making ice-cream (Wasabi flavour anyone?), tamarind isn’t something that I”d ever thought of eating in sorbet form and the result is a strange sour tart sensation. Astroboy is determined to be brave and orders the sorbet with Chilli, sadly the chilli and tamarind don’t really blend together for her and she doesn’t really see how it adds to the dish. While I enjoy the tamarind flavour, the actual sorbet is a little icy and distracting.
The Bodhi Tree is my first taste of Burmese food. While the flavours and cooking techniques used in each of the dishes are similar to Thai and Vietnamese food, the variety of textures and those little twists in flavour all help to make the meal that much more memorable.
I think I’m hooked on Burmese food! I’ve never eaten it before in Sydney and don’t even know if there are any Burmese restaurants around. Does anyone know of any Burmese restaurants in Sydney or of a place where I can buy Burmese tea leaves?
The Bodhi Tree
808 Colombo Street
Christchurch, New Zealand