Happy Friday!

I really wish to rediscover my love for and interest in writing. I feel sad when I visit the blog sometimes and after logging in, just proceed to log out because I just don’t feel the inclination to write and I am just not inspired to write anything. Writing used to feel so easy and effortless and nowadays it seems to be one of the furthest things from my mind. Focus is hard to grasp with apparent brain fog most of the times, and I just feel that whatever is typed out is somehow just meaningless banter.

But still, it is a Friday after all! Best day of the week because there is no work tomorrow. Isn’t it sad when on a day-to-day basis, the only thing worth looking forward to is the lunch break and end-of-workday, and then to Friday? When Friday comes around, there is already that impending dread that the weekend, though here, is too short and Monday already seems to loom around the corner. Well, I know this is all negative talk that I should refrain from and instead learn to ‘live in the moment’, enjoy each day for what it is rather than look ahead to something that we can’t control, or that only seem to make us feel bad. There really isn’t a point to be at this moment now, harbouring regrets about yesterday and worrying about tomorrow. And ok, I know that most people would say that everyone is exactly the same, in looking ahead to the meal breaks and then the going home part. We are all alike in that aspect but we all react and respond differently because of how differently we are wired internally. It’s just like how eating a humongous sandwich can make me experience heavenly bliss but to another it is just… food.

So anyway… with 8 months of 2016 gone and the last third of the year to go, I was thinking if I should, scratch that, I was thinking of where else I should visit. The last few years have seen me taking quite a number of vacations in the span of a year, at least 4 or more. This year, I have been on just 2 holidays.

In May, I visited my favourite city, Tokyo, once again. I already lost count of the number of times I have been there but yet there is always that desire to visit. There never really is an itinerary or reason for visiting each time but somehow I just look forward to going there. This time, I revisited Gotemba Premium Outlets. It’s the second time I’m going there and it’s so different from the first. Weather-wise it definitely felt different and also in terms of the crowd. It was so empty when I first went in 2009 and freezing cold. This time, it still wasn’t too hot because the seasons were changing, but the crowd size was visibly larger. Also, the people I went with on this trip, to Gotemba at least, were avid shopaholics.

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This was the situation at Gotemba, where we were crossing from one part to the other, after having a very un-Thai version of basil chicken rice at the food court. Personally, as I don’t shop as much these days, I only bought some casual clothing from GAP (the typical go-to shop for most people at these outlets I think). My Gotemba companions scored big though, with one of the most value-for-money buys from Loewe for most of them.

Just recently at the end of July, I took a short trip to nearby Hong Kong, another of my favourite cities, but which is starting to lose its shine somewhat. I still enjoy it for its familiarity and proximity to Singapore that is such a boon in terms of the relatively short flight time, but circumstances seem to have began to cast shadows on these. Nevertheless, I tried something new this time! Craved for char siew and my friend brought me to this Michelin-starred eatery. We actually queued (albeit a short while) to enter even though it was past lunch hour. Verdict? I think it’s ok, not bad but not fantastic that I would want to queue for again. It’s the same as Tin Ho Wan, not bad but not worth the kinds of queue that we see.
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Other than this, the only other local thing I had on this trip was a small cup of Hong Kong milk tea from Tsui Wah that I ordered at the airport while waiting for my flight that was delayed for a couple of hours due to the the typhoon that set off the island on a Signal 8 Typhoon alert the night before I was due to depart. I also chanced upon a Gerard Dubois patisserie in Causeway Bay and tried the lemon curd tart that was pretty nice and zesty!

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There were so many things there that I would have liked to order to try but I could only choose one because I think that’s the maximum sugar load I could take at any one time. Or so I would like to trick myself into believing.

So if I take Hong Kong and Tokyo out of the equation, what are the other plausible choices? Should I venture a revisit of either?

Literally eating my way through Hong Kong

The past couple of weeks have been crazy that I almost feel close to a breakdown. Exhaustion can’t even begin to describe how I feel.

So anyway, I can now afford a slight breather and will try to catch up on my posts. Try I certainly will.

x x x

It was just the third day in Hong Kong and I could already feel that the whole trip was really just about eating. Ok, to be honest, we did do some shopping and as it was really meant to be a chillax trip, there wasn’t any need to rush around. It is Hong Kong after all, not too far from home and where we had been a number of times, so again, it meant that we could just chill.

Although vacations in Hong Kong are typically about their local fare, or perhaps in recent years, the various hipster cafes not unlike those that have sprouted up in Singapore, I still like checking out the chain cafes for what they serve, which is often very much different from what we get here due to the different local food supplier they have. And by virtue of it being a holiday for me, I will tend to find what they have more interesting, as compared to what I am used to seeing day-in and out at our Starbucks or the likes.

So this is breakfast at Pacific Coffee. There are just a handful of them left here, but they are pretty much in many places all over Hong Kong. The lemon tart, with a latte and yogurt pot. You can tell how much I am into my yogurts because even while travelling, I still want to have them on a daily basis if I can. The apple crumble tart that I ordered, which was not too bad but nothing spectacular.
After this supposed first breakfast, I proceeded for a brunch of sorts. Met my cousin at Elephant Grounds’ new outlet (at least to me) at Fashion Walk, which boasted proper seating and food menu. We being rather mindful of what we eat sometimes, ordered the healthy options. He ordered a rice bowl topped with greens and chicken, while I opted for a quinoa salad. Or was it cous cous, I couldn’t remember. The food was pretty decent, and portion looked quite generous, however they were quite stingy on the grains. The leaves took up real estate in the large serving bowl, leaving a lot of space without much of the quinoa/cous cous, so I was left feeling half-full even after this. Hmmph. It was more like a sprinkling of grains rather than it being the main feature of the salad… -_-
But coffee is still very good! And weather that day was perfect for al fresco dining; though it was winter in Hong Kong, it didn’t feel like a typical December day. The sun was out and the air was just nice and breezy with a cool feel. Of course to me, that is already considered a little cold, as usual. But to everyone else, I think the temperature is comfortable.

So because the mains we had at Elephant Grounds weren’t enough to fill us up, we proceeded for desserts. A brought me to this sweet-soup shop near Times Square, called ‘Cong Sau (聪嫂)’, where I ordered a papaya-based dessert with white fungus, while he took an almond paste item with gingko nuts. Both were really nice, and he told me that their ‘tang yuan’ was good too, that I made a mental note to return the next day since it’s winter solstice, time to eat 汤圆! Close-up of my choice.
After spending a few precious hours catching up with the cousin, I went to meet my friend for dinner. Yes… more eating! It seems like I’m eating non-stop…

We went to Tin Loke Lane (in the Wan Chai / Causeway Bay vicinity) for 烧腊! This was what we ordered, a set meal that included 双拼 (2 types of meat) where my friend chose roast pork and something which I couldn’t quite get/remember what it was, a bowl of watercress soup, a plate of sauteed vegetables and rice. I was quite disappointed with the  veggies, because I was half-expecting something like our 油菜, but apparently it wasn’t so. It feels like lightly stir-fried cabbage or something.On top of that, I ordered an ala carte char siew rice, since I was really craving for some nice char siew. The char siew in Hong Kong is different from what we are used to having in Singapore, which is slightly more dry and tough to a certain extent, probably because they are roasted more thoroughly? The edges are usually a bit burnt which makes it really nice, and the colour is generally darker. The ones in Hong Kong tend to be lighter in colour and is juicier, also generally with more fat. I had to consciously cut/slice away the fats because I really don’t like the feel and taste of fatty meat. No matter how nice everyone tells me they are, I just get myself to eat it. I found out later that this is also the shop that my cousin frequents when he wants to get his char siew fix, and his tip for me, “ask for 瘦叉烧”. Oh I see.

Here’s a close up of all that juicy goodness. I guess that’s why we always see their char siew being called 密汁叉烧 because it feels juicy?
This was what my friend ordered. I had some of the roast pork too, and it is also not as tough/hard as what we have here. Ok, I don’t know if the roast pork in Singapore is hard, because I don’t think I have ever ordered this at any of the hawkers back home, haha! After dinner, it’s time for dessert again! We headed to this 糖水 shop near our hotel, which was also where a friend brought me to once. It serves a wide variety of sweet soups and there are sometimes queues forming outside the tiny shop where patrons wait patiently (or not) for their turn to enjoy their desserts! The most popular items would probably be the 桑记莲子茶, which comes in various versions with or without hard-boiled egg, lotus seeds, etc. I should think that their black sesame paste, or whatever other paste for that matter, should be pretty good because they are made in large pots. I ordered the almond paste that was so smooth and fluid while my friend took the bestseller (or what I think should be their bestselling item). Prices here are generally a bit higher, as compared to where my cousin brought me to earlier that day anyway. At 聪嫂, it’s probably less than or about HKD20 per bowl, but here, each bowl could cost more than HKD30, though to be fair, the portion here is bigger too.

And so that concludes Day 3 of eating. We did some walking too, in our attempt to walk off the bloated feeling of all the good stuff that we had in us, but I seriously think that we were not giving our stomachs and digestive systems sufficient time to rest and recuperate!

Blessings crown my head

As the years go by, we realise that our social circles get smaller and smaller. In most cases, it is a matter of choice because we start to get more selective of people we hang out with, spend time with, because time has become such a precious commodity that we see no point in spending these valuable moments with people who do not really matter, or perhaps people whom we feel we don’t have a connection with. In any case, my lifestyle has also dictated the way my social circle has dwindled over the years, and the energy level that I have these days just don’t lend myself to staying out for long hours whether it is after work or on weekends to socialise.

It sounds a little like I am wallowing in self-pity, what I am about to write, but this is really something that I want to write about to show a sense of thankfulness for what I have.

My birthday was last month, and I’m grateful for friends who remembered the date and sent me their well wishes via Whatsapp or through Facebook, despite that I had not publicly-listed my birthdate for Facebook to send reminders to my friends of it.

A few of my friends asked me out, but I ended up only being able to meet them, one a week or so after the actual day, another just a week ago and finally one today. Even if there wasn’t that kind of ‘fanfare’ associated with celebrating birthdays anymore, I suppose it is also a matter of choice and I still appreciate their thoughts in giving me a treat or buying me a gift. 🙂

Since young, my family never really had the habit of celebrating birthdays in a big fashion with cakes and what nots. I didn’t have any fancy celebration for my 21st, and so maybe it has also become typical for me to just spend my birthday as just any other day. While I was in school, and maybe in my younger professional days, there might have been friends who have made the day a bigger affair, buying cakes complete with candles and stuff, birthday cards and presents. These days, it is but a muted event.

Yet, I did feel a lot of love this year. My brother asked where I would like to go for dinner on my birthday. And coming from my brother, it kind of took me by surprise, and I was really touched at his gesture. There was no big celebration, sure, but what mattered was that the important people in my life were there with me that evening for dinner. It was a really traditional, Chinese-style kind of dinner, not what I usually would have picked, but my parents enjoy Chinese food and so it was an easier option for us too. I really love the char siew! The rest of the food weren’t too shabby either, but regardless the taste of the food, my heart felt warm that day. And I got a second surprise afterward, when I got home, and my other brother disappeared for a short moment and returned with 2 slices of cakes, because as he said “I don’t know what flavour you like so I bought 2.” Awww. Well, I don’t have special preferences for cakes these days, since carrot cake seemed to have fallen off the charts lately, but the tiramisu and mango cake were not too bad. I even got a candle to blow out as I made my birthday wish, which now I don’t remember what I wished for anymore.

喜喜, Hong Kong

A trip to Hong Kong would not be complete without visiting one of their 茶餐厅, which is loosely translated as Tea Restaurant. These are essentially Hong Kong-style coffee shops that sell a variety of local food including buns, toast, noodles, and so on, not forgetting the aromatic Hong Kong milk tea that I really enjoy. Of course, their menu items can get really extensive and most of these are open for long hours, some even operating 24 hours so they serve anything from breakfast, lunch, dinner to morning and afternoon teas.

I don’t normally have their full breakfasts because a lot of them tend to include macaroni as one of the breakfast items, part of a set of a beverage, bread that is lightly toasted or some variant of their well-known pineapple bun (菠萝包), and usually a serving of scrambled eggs. That is one huge breakfast, much more than our humble breakfast set at Yakun. So anyway, back to December last year, I finally had my fix of a local cafe one night and ordered what typically will be frowned upon at that time of the day/night.

20140205-220405.jpgOmelette (since I don’t think this counts as scrambled eggs) with ham and spring onions, which is honestly quite delicious and fried to the right perfection for me. Who cares if it might be oily for that hour? It was accompanied by buttered toast that again, though sinful, because of the butter smeared on it and toasted, had my resistance crumbling in its face.

Then there is the main draw for me, soupy instant noodles with barbeque pork (aka char siew)! I suspect that the green peas are included for the sake of faking some semblance of healthy eating (vegetables?) but entirely futile, even if I ate them all and I really do quite love green peas. The char siew was heavenly to me despite that I am having it at a 茶餐厅, or I was just too deprived of it for too long. It is not overly roasted or perhaps it being dunked in the soup base made it softer but generally I thought it was fairly tender yet not too soft even with the fatty bits.

20140205-220411.jpgNot pictured is the milk tea that came much later, because the waitress missed out my order. I really adore their version of milk tea, which our teh-c kosong (tea with evaporated milk and no sugar) doesn’t even come anywhere close to imitating. Somehow the tea we have here just isn’t as fragrant or the tea taste just isn’t really there.

I couldn’t seem to find out more about this particular place that I went to, called 喜喜, which my friend brought me to, in a quieter part of Causeway Bay away from the bustling activity of the Times Square or Sogo areas. But I’m pretty sure there are tonnes of such cafes everywhere in Hong Kong, and I can’t wait for my next trip there for more of the yummy Hong Kong food!

Marina Hong Kong Roast Meat, United Square

I’m back from the weekend! It’s Tuesday anyhow and yes I was already back in action, at work or otherwise, since yesterday. But as I had made a lengthy, wordy post yesterday I thought I’d pace myself for the week. Weekends are like my (un)official rest days, whether it is from work or from blogging. I love to write, don’t get me wrong, and even on weekends I am guilty of always being part of the demographic group who is constantly checking out what’s happening online, whether it is Facebook, Twitter or other forms of social media. I would admit as much my addiction to the virtual world and its offerings, it feels kind of weird sometimes to be disconnected, especially when I travel and there is no data (oh the woes) available! All of a sudden, I’d feel a tad lost, a tad perturbed, but honestly I don’t think I miss out that much, and most importantly I believe that social media and the use of smart phones is more a way for me to while time away.

But well, weekends are busy times for me! Or at least during certain parts of either days, I am fairly occupied in a gainful way of course.

This is a random food post, because today I had wanton noodles for lunch, and I realised that there is a difference in quality as compared to the wanton noodles I ate last week. Sometimes, my colleagues will drive to United Square for lunch, and if the weather isn’t too humid and warm, we’d choose to eat at this stall next to Yakun, where we could conveniently adjourn for coffee thereafter. Facing Yakun, there are two noodle stalls, the one to your right is the Pontian wanton noodles store and to your left would be the Marina Hong Kong Roast Meat store. According to my colleagues, the latter serves up better food, and the good thing about either stores is that you can take your coffee at their seating areas if you like, no need to wait around for available tables in Yakun!

Marina Hong Kong Roast Meat offers a pretty wide variety on their menu, from roast pork (siew yoke), duck, char siew, etc., in rice or noodle form, and I think they have chicken too though I cannot be too sure. Besides that, they also sell porridge although not everything is always available because once I asked for one specific porridge and they didn’t have that on that particular day. So I ordered the char siew wanton mee instead.    

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The noodles are pretty springy or what some would term “Q”, and they don’t stick together which makes for easy eating. However, I find that there is too much sauce drenched over them, which perhaps explains the non-stickiness, and the sauce was a little salty for my liking. The wanton were also not the best I have had, because the skin seemed to be too thick and I ended up cutting off the excess wanton skin and just eating the part with the meat wrapped inside. But the good thing about this store is that their char siew tastes great. I didn’t realise that I like their char siew until I had char siew wanton mee this afternoon at Toa Payoh Central, and found that the char siew was dry and tough. Marina Hong Kong Roast Meat’s char siew was adequately juicy and lean, I am not a fan of fatty pork or fatty-whatever meats, the texture just doesn’t appeal, so lean is good.

Despite me thinking that I should cut down on my meat intake, I love char siew as a kid. When I was young, I’d always be choosing to eat char siew rice over my brothers’ preference of chicken rice, and sometimes my mum would just buy char siew on its own, those with a edges slightly burned/charred to add variety to the bite when chewing. Coincidentally, one of my colleagues who joined us shortly after we started eating also made a comment that the char siew/siew yoke rice he ordered doesn’t compare with what he had at Marina Hong Kong Roast Meat last week! So it isn’t just my personal preference but a general consensus was reached amongst the lunch group.