Change – the only constant

Over the last few years, it seems like so much has happened since when I started working. Although it’s been more than 10 years, in the whole scheme of things, comparing it against the number of years that I would be in the workforce it isn’t such a long time. Yet, everything feels surreal and like in a drift.

When we were in school, there were always milestones to reach and goals to achieve. These were set for us by the academic system, to enter primary school, pass the PSLE and go on to secondary school, clear GCE ‘O’ Levels and either go to a JC or Polytechnic. From there, it could be onward to University or for some, they decide to enter the workforce. For most part of that schooling journey, exams are sort of the climax of each phase, and there is a fairly fixed time frame to work with. But the game changes entirely when we enter the working world. There are people I know who have set goals to retire early, as in reaching the stage where they choose to work, and not work because they need to. Then they work tirelessly towards that. I am not so ambitious, because simply put, I don’t know how I can work towards that, and I don’t know what would be a realistic age to set. As it is, I am not exactly young but yet not that old to look forward to retirement.

Sure, given a choice, I would rather not be working in a job where the only thing worth looking forward to is the monthly pay-check, and sometimes the bonus, or lack thereof. I would also want to arrive at the self-actualisation stage defined in Maslow’s hierarchy where work no longer feels like work, and that I actually enjoy what I do day-to-day. Then again, the lack of spirit just makes me think that is myth. Or it boils down to the fact that I don’t really know what I like to do. And if what I sort of enjoy doing can become something that could earn me a livelihood, or if I could even motivate myself to work so hard to be so good at it to make it a revenue-generating activity.

Some people have set other kinds of goals outside of the corporate life. To them, they accept that work can only be something that pays them to do what they like to do beyond it, so their goals are defined in their personal lives, such as getting married, owning a property (and more thereafter maybe), having children, and so on. The moment the kids come along, the milestones also change to revolve around their growth and development, and finally their own retirement. This is not something that I have considered or thought of at this point.

I don’t know where I am heading with this entry. It was just motivated from my internal rumination as I went through some photos and thoughts that surfaced when I considered the people around. Sometimes, life feels like a tiring and tiresome journey. We try so hard to keep things going yet it always feels so one-sided and pointless. At some point, it almost becomes that things I used to enjoy, I don’t really do and I don’t know what is it that I enjoy anymore and what is it I would enjoy at all. Everything just feels meaningless – life, people, things. Even travelling doesn’t seem appealing anymore because there just is no point in it.

Collated a set of food pictures from more than 3 years ago when I went to Tokyo, and as I looked at them, I realise that I no longer enjoy some of them, and don’t eat most of them anymore. Have my taste buds changed or do I just don’t get enjoyment from eating anymore?

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Christmas in Hong Kong

It isn’t the first time I’m taking a vacation in Hong Kong during the Christmas season, or for that matter, somewhere overseas. But maybe it is the simple knowledge of being on holiday that somehow injects a stronger Christmas vibe within me. At least I kind of felt the Christmas festivities more when I was in Hong Kong, which could be due partly to the fact that it was a temporary reprieve for me from the hustle of the renovation works.

Was it last year when I  visited Hong Kong, in early December, that I also saw similar Christmas decorations in SoHo?This year, Star Wars fever has struck everywhere, from Changi Airport replete with figurines and what-not, and also at Times Square in Causeway Bay, which held an exhibition of sorts of these pretty much life-sized mascots!
The Storm Troopers, up close.  The main reason why we were at Causeway Bay that very first day we landed in Hong Kong, was of course to have dinner! I brought my friend to the Matchbox Cafe, also known as Xi Xi. Last year, my friend brought me here and I so loved what I had that I had to return. Unfortunately, they again had run out of the char siew that I liked. It’s weird, I know, to go to a ‘cha-chan-teng’ for char siew, but cooked together with the CQYD noodles, it makes for really amazing comfort food.

However, even without the char siew, we went ahead to order. Their scrambled eggs and toast smeared with butter are also great, because the eggs are so creamy and flavourful and the toast reminded me somewhat of brioche. My friend had the lemon cola which she said was good, and for the trip, she commented that was the best lemon cola she had!
Closer look at the smooth scrambled eggs that also had strips of ham tossed into the mix. Just thinking of it makes me salivate. Haha.  And this was the bowl of noodles that I ordered! CQYD instant noodles with egg (yes, more eggs!) and a stalk of chye sim. I cannot remember if there were other stuff inside, but it was a serious overdose of eggs for me that night! Check out the super retro pair of small scissors that came with my order. Presumably, it’s for cutting the pack of sesame oil that gives CQYD noodles that familiar and addictive flavour. But it could also be for cutting the noodles so that they are more manageable? I don’t suppose it would be the latter, this being Hong Kong and most people should be quite adept with chop sticks!

Myeongdong Kyoja (명동교자), Seoul

It was the second time I visited this eatery, or that I believe it was the same that I visited years back when I hit Seoul with a friend. They have 2 outlets in Myeongdong and in the past, I recalled snaking queues to get a seat, especially at meal-times or that was perhaps because I was there during feeding times. Haha. Anyway, Myeongdong Kyoja (I guess this is the Korean version/take of the Japanese word that we are more used to, gyoza) is more efficient now, although there were a couple of times when I walked past when I did witness a queue forming all the way out to the streets.

It is really a noodle restaurant that has been around for about 40 years, and is known for their knife-cut, handmade kalguksu noodles. Besides this popular item, others include the mandu (which is the kyoja or gyoza, which is actually more like steamed xiao long baos), bibim guksu (noodles with vegetables and red hot pepper paste) and kongguksu (noodles in cold soy milk broth). I picked these up from the Visit Korea website, which appended a Michelin logo on the page too, but I haven’t checked if it’s really a Michelin-starred eatery.

So the last time when I was there, I also ordered the steamed dumplings, which comes in 10s, and a bowl of noodle each. There were just 2 of us then, and obviously we couldn’t finish all that was on the table. I don’t even recall what noodles we ordered but they were the soupy type, so I think it could have been the kongguksu. This time, we were a trio, so it makes for better sharing of food.

The bibim guksu:

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The lot of items that were ordered, together with the complimentary dishes of kimchi, which boasted a very strong garlic flavour. So for anyone who isn’t that fond of garlic, please abstain from it because it is definitely overwhelming enough to make any vampires stay away from you after having it.

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This is their famed handmade, knife-cut noodles, which were really good! This dish also included several pieces of dumplings and contains meat and vegetables in a rich broth.20140714-225219-82339603.jpg

And finally, the steamed dumplings, or known as mandu or kyoja. In terms of appearance, they don’t look as delicate as the Chinese-style steamed dumplings such as those from Ding Tai Feng. Also, they are much bigger and contains more filling, but in terms of taste I think they fare just as well! Due to their size and also having other orders like the noodles, just having 3 was actually enough for us, but it depends very much on the individual’s appetite and how much you prefer each item.  20140714-225219-82339486.jpg

During this trip, we found out that the noodles or soup are actually refillable! Or at least that was what we noted, because there was this table behind us, comprising 2 guys and a girl, who ordered 2 bowls of noodles and 1 serving of the mandus, and they actually had 2 noodle refills, without cost. At least we thought the refills were complimentary, because how they work is that you will pay upon the serving of the food and for those 2 refills, the server did not collect any money from them. Well, that makes for a very economical meal but us being us, we couldn’t help tsk tsk-ing at the apparent “cheapskate-ness” of that table. If indeed they needed 2 refills (or maybe even more after we left) then they should probably have ordered more food or an additional bowl of noodle or 2. Anyway, if it’s the restaurant’s policy for entertaining such requests, then it has to still be viable and helps to attract customers too!

Like I mentioned, they are much more efficient now, or the crowds have thinned since the last time I went. We didn’t have trouble getting a seat even if it was a slightly earlier dinner that we picked, still around 6-ish in the evening, and the food was served up really quickly. The turnover was also really fast, so that the moment you finished your food, it is time to leave and make way for other patrons but yet we didn’t feel like we were being chased to leave. It kind of felt a little like fast-food, although it could also be that we were just there to eat and then go, not to sit, savour the food slowly and chat over it. Definitely worth checking out if you like such kinds of food, and it wasn’t too expensive. For our orders, we paid 24,000 KRW in total, which works out to be just about S$10 per head.

Menya Sanji, Orchid Hotel

There is this other ramen stall at Orchid Hotel with ridiculous queues each time I walk past, and I think it’s the Keisuke Tonkotsu ramen. I haven’t tried it before so I can’t comment if it is good or not, and it has been a while since I last had any ramen I think, but I hate queueing in general, so I never really considered having lunch there. There are a couple of times when I walked past and it was not crowded, but I wondered if perhaps they had already closed for lunch, or maybe they were sold out. Another shop that sells gyoza also sees quite turn-offish queues so again that isn’t a shop that have entered within my realm of consideration. In fact, I was not that keen on checking out this shop too, Menya Sanji, because we had to wait. But since we were the first in the line, and my colleagues were ok with the supposed short wait, I went along. The shop is really tiny, which explains the formation of queues during meal times I gather, but we were a little late for lunch that day so maybe that is the reason why we didn’t have to put up with longer queues.

Menya Sanji sells a variety of ramen, and some of them, from the pictures, look really sinful with fatty pork slices that I am not a fan of. I just don’t like the texture of fatty meat, even if they are supposed to be really good, and it isn’t because I am some health freak who cannot touch fatty stuff (think of all the roast pork, aka bak kwa that I have been having on an almost nightly basis for supper).

20140220-133015.jpgSo I decided to order the bukkake ramen, which is a version of dry ramen that comes with a sauce, three types for you to choose from, that you have to pour over the noodles, mix them up before eating. It reminded me of Tetsu, but the sauce is different and for Tetsu I think it’s eaten by dipping the noodles into the sauce like for Cha Soba.

Let’s take a closer look.

20140220-133022.jpgI actually quite enjoy this type of ramen, because maybe the fried spring onions gave it a nice flavour and in general there were several types of ingredients included. I won’t mention too much about the egg, as though the white was delicious, the yolk was unfortunately already in a near-solidified state, i.e. fail. I love the noodles though, which I was a tad surprised that they were cold (thought they’d be hot), but they were very Q and springy. The fact that they didn’t stick together in clumps made eating really easy and a breeze, even though I had not used much of the sauce provided. This comes in 2 sizes, a standard at S$9.90 and a large (costs S$2 more I think). It looks deceivingly small but the standard was more than enough for me, even though there was no soup/broth to bloat me up. My colleague thought they’d be insufficient noodles so she ordered the large and ended up with a lot of noodles left over. But I think she didn’t really like that it’s cold so maybe that’s why she didn’t finish it eventually.

It’s worth a try, and service is courteous and more or less prompt, at least it seemed like they try to be very prompt. And there is complimentary free-flow of water if you need!

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!

noodley Mak’s

I think the last few times when I went to Hong Kong, I have went to Mak’s for shrimp wanton mee. They have several branches but the only one I have ever been to is the one located along Wellington Street in Central, a small little shop opposite another shop that also sells wanton mee. Somehow, the other shop is always more crowded whenever I’m there, in fact, Mak’s is always empty or at most with just a couple of other patrons, when I pop in, but thankfully this shop is still around otherwise I would have to head to their other outlets for a noodle fix.

20131230-160653.jpgThe reason why the other shop seems more popular is perhaps because they are better value for money. Their noodles come in a larger bowl and their shrimp dumplings are much bigger. However, they are just too big for me, I find that each dumpling is so big that it makes one feel that there is just too much in one mouthful of eating it, and the bowl of noodles is also too much for one item. Mak’s, on the other hand, comes in a very manageable portion. For the normal person I think it might be too small to fill even a crevice in their tummies (ok, this is probably an exaggeration but it is really tiny), but it’s a good size to try and after that, you can continue on your way to try other stuff. After all, Hong Kong is one food paradise that you can just keep on eating your way through the city. Their dumplings are also fresh and juicy and the noodles have the right consistency and bounciness in them. One small bowl of standard wanton mee costs HKD35, with 4 dumplings. I think the other shop sells their usual bowl of noodles at a lower price, for a portion that can be about twice that of Mak’s.

If you are ever in Hong Kong and in the vicinity of Wellington Street, check out both stores and see which one you’d prefer.

Laksania, NEX, Singapore

I didn’t know such a place existed, but during a lunch meet-up one day, my friend suggested we check out this place that serves all things laksa. In my mind, I only know of laksa in the form of local laksa that is typically fiery orange in colour, and then there’s Penang laksa that carries a sour taste to it and its gravy isn’t as coagulated (for want of a better description), or more watery as compared to what we are generally used to. So as I was given the menu to peruse, I was pretty surprised to see the various adaptations of this much-loved local fare. Apparently, Laksania has three outlets in Singapore, and they have a website where you can go to for a better idea of their menu offerings. I was really tempted to try their Laksa burger, but felt it was so unorthodox (don’t ask me why haha) so I decided to go for something more conventional.

My friend ordered the Penang laksa, and although I didn’t try it I could detect its assam scent distinctly.

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My order isn’t too boring even if I chose something more conventional, the Laksa Goreng. I love Mee Goreng, and what better combination than to have a laksa that is stir-fried! Even though it came fried, it still retained the trademark laksa taste, to me at least, perhaps beacuse of the coriander leaves sprinkled on top? It isn’t too spicy too so overall, I quite enjoyed this version of the laksa. Maybe if I were to return in future, I’ll try the other items such as the burger or the laksa hotpot!   20130514-174146.jpg

The downside of this eatery is that they don’t serve water; if you asked for it they’ll ask if you want to order mineral water instead. So if you are worried that the food you are ordering is going to be spicy, be prepared to make a beverage order, or perhaps you can also choose the desserts that they have, Red Bean soup, almond jelly or chin chow dessert (all at $1 each).