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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Yakitori goodness

I can’t remember the name of this restaurant, but it’s an eatery located at one of the upper floors of Tobu Department store in Ikebukuro. It resembles an izakaya of sorts but then in a very different setting, as it doesn’t have your usual “salary man” drinking and smoking, it being a department store where I suppose smoking isn’t allowed indoors. It feels more like the typical Japanese restaurants that we might expect to see in Singapore, with spacious seating arrangements and the use of wooden furniture.

There was some misunderstanding in the reading of the menu that led us to ordering more than what we could finish. It just goes to show that my level of Japanese proficiency isn’t too fantastic.

So these are the grilled vegetables that we ordered – leek, cucumber, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes.These were the minced chicken balls (tsukune) that we ordered, coated with different choice of sauces. Among yakitori, this is one of my favourites, aside from the veggies. I can’t appreciate most other yakitori such as chicken skin, innards or what-have-you.  The whole lot of yakitori sticks we had. The plate on the left-hand side were the mis-ordered ones. They were also minced chicken balls but coated with a pre-determined set of 3 different sauces. We couldn’t finish all of them eventually because it was just too much food.Reason why we couldn’t finish… because we ordered other things too. My friend and I shared the Oyako-don, which was really yummy as the egg was so smooth and fragrant, it’s almost like extremely creamy scrambled eggs.  Another of my friend ordered this dish, which I don’t really know what it was. There was breaded chicken slices on top of some rice, but I have no idea what the yellow bits were. He didn’t seem to enjoy this as a sizable portion was left behind, or maybe it was just the rice and carbs that he didn’t want to have. The 2 mains were part of a set that came with dessert, a very interesting type of mochi coated with soy bean powder, topped with a dollop of whipped cream and a syrup of sorts, probably honey or maple syrup?  On the whole, the dinner was pretty ok I guess, as yakitori is a type of Japanese food I enjoy, though I hardly have them these days and the variety I consume is rather limited. Nevertheless, most of the food in Japan are good; it is hard to go wrong regardless of the type of establishment and the corresponding price of the dish. Perhaps unless there is some preconceived expectation that isn’t met, but for me so far, I don’t think I have been much disappointed by food that I have in Japan. 🙂

Nanbantei, Shinjuku Tokyo

In Singapore, I have only been to Nanbantei once, the tiny outlet located on level 4 of Far East Plaza. It has been there since forever, because even though I have not been there until maybe a couple of years ago, it’s not easy to miss it since it is just in front of the escalator that leads up from level 3. Besides, I have often heard from others about how good it is. From the only time that I have been there, my friend and I sat at the counter and it was very crammed, but all I could recall was that the food was pretty good. Ok, I am not fussy about my food, as I have realised to a certain extent after talking to people and hearing about their grouses of food and so on. But I have had yakitori that wasn’t that good, still edible but not palatable; they were dry, perhaps over-cooked and whatever was skewered on the stick felt like a burnt piece of meat. 20130426-100326.jpg

On the last night that R & G were in Tokyo, I thought we could check out Nanbantei since it’s something we have all heard of (I think) and it’s yakitori! We could all do with some good Japanese grilled meat and veggies. Besides, it was the eve of G’s birthday and R wanted to give him a nice birthday celebration. Unfortunately we didn’t have any cake to go along with the dinner, also because by the end of dinner we were too stuffed for anymore food.

Thankfully for me, the failed tourist guide, this Nanbantei had an English menu. The selections weren’t too big but I guess acceptable, at least they have tsukune (something like chicken patty), one of the must-order things for me when I have yakitori. We were quite lucky too because when we dropped in (literally, because the outlet is in the basement), we managed to get a table that was away from the counter, in a nice cosy corner. There were some patrons who were smoking, as usual, but luckily there weren’t too many customers who were lighting up. It’s quite common for the Japanese to eat, drink and smoke at the same time, maybe that’s how dinner can stretch for hours and also how they eat slowly (and thus not grow fat?).

So now for the food pictures! All these are wrapped with a thin layer of pork, cherry tomatoes, inoki mushroom and asparagus. They were grilled so well in my opinion that the meat was slightly burnt and crispy but still retaining its juiciness, of course together with that of the vegetables wrapped within, there was this burst of flavours in your mouth when you bite into them. Ah… heaven.  20130426-100340.jpg

Skewered beef and very big, succulent scallops!20130426-100350.jpg

Mushrooms for the girls. I love grilled mushrooms, and generally I can order all kinds of shrooms when I visit yakitori restaurants. 20130426-100401.jpg

Before I could take a picture of the tsukune that we ordered (three sticks, one for each of us), they were grabbed off the plate! That’s how much we were looking forward to having this, served last. It isn’t the best tsukune I’ve had (there’s one in Ebisu that my friend J brought me to before but it’s a challenge to have to order there because everything is in Japanese and the place is extremely small) but this was still good. Besides meat, there was also some bits of vegetables mixed in that give it an added crunchiness. 20130426-100411.jpg

G also ordered this bowl of rice that came with a raw egg on top of it. R and I were a little iffy on it but I think he enjoyed it, and it kind of filled him up so much that he couldn’t finish the yakitori at the end!

It was a great meal with excellent company, and thanks R & G for the treat!

You can check out the Gnavi link here for its location and address in Shinjuku if you are interested when visiting Tokyo. It’s somewhere amongst the alleys in the way between Takashimaya and Bicqlo (near to Shinjuku Isetan side).