The Bodhi Tree is a rare gem. It is a brilliant Burmese restaurant in Christchurch. That in itself is unusual. The only place you can find Burmese restaurants in New Zealand is in Christchurch. In general, Christchurch doesn’t do very well with ethnic eateries (I lived there for 7 years and visit at least once every year). The Bodhi Tree is different, intriguing and most of all, delicious.
The Bodhi Tree doesn’t try to dumb down its cuisine, it’s asking diners to share in the traditional Burmese cuisine and learn some of its culture. Burmese food has influences from its Chinese and Indian neighbours. There are some familiar flavours with its curries and sauces, but there are surprising combinations that just works.
The menu is extensive, and all the dishes are small plates for sharing. For a table of four, we ordered 10 dishes (2 starters, 3 vegetables, 3 meat, 2 desserts) to share.
Le pet thoke ($14.50) is a very famous traditional Burmese snack, and one which you cannot miss. It is a crunchy tea leaf salad made with pickled tea leaves, lentils, nuts, sesame seeds, chilli and a salty sour dressing. This is a real taste and texture surprise.
Napijo ($14.50) is a very spicy fish floss (the menu calls it crumbly fish) eaten with lettuce leaves. This reminds of the Malay serunding which is eaten with glutinous rice cake.
We also had the creamy and savoury beibyoke ($12), which was lightly spiced and sautéed blue peas sprinkled with crispy shallots.
The timbodi thoke ($13.50) is a salad of shredded green papaya dressed with lemon, dried shrimp, shallot oil and roasted pea flour.
We shared a portion of nga hin ($18) boneless fillet of fish braised in fresh tomato, coriander, chilli and tamarind sauce.
We shared two curries, wetda seebian ($16) is a pork curry slow cooked in shallot, garlic and light spices and jetda ono hin ($16) a chicken curry. They tasted quite similar, creamy and mildly spicy.
My favourite dish was tohu thoke ($13.50), deep-fried yellow split-pea tofu triangles tossed with salad greens and dressed with tamarind and crispy shallots. This yellow, savoury tofu is nothing like the soybean tofu and is more closely related to polenta.
To finish off our meal, we had the majidi ye ke mot ($7.50) digestive. The very tangy tamarind sorbet is great to cleanse the palate. We also shared the shwe ji mot ($10) semolina & coconut milk cake, with its poppyseed topping.
The Bodhi Tree is one of those unassuming restaurants that is an utter revelation. The staff take obvious pride in their work, and were absolutely charming and professional. If you visit Christchurch, make sure you book a table and be blown away.
The Bodhi Tree
397 Ilam Road
Ph: 03 – 3776 808
Open Tue – Sat: 6 – 9:30pm