Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Easy Chicken Pad Thai

I never thought I'd say this, but I'm glad to be back in Baltimore! 

The past two months have been pretty hectic, with me basically living out of a suitcase while I lived in LA for 3 weeks and then Southern MD for 4 weeks. I've moved back to Baltimore after having two subletters live in my room one after the other and boy does it feel good to have my own space again. 

Among the more important things, I have my own kitchen back! While I did have a kitchen in my old house in Southern MD, I found myself bored with the aspect of cooking just for myself, with no roommate or friends to share with, so kept it simple and mainly ate salads. Now that I'm back, all the pantry supplies and spices are back where they belong and I can finally whip up some more palatable meals. First up, my version of pad thai--it's easier than you think! 

For me, what sets Thai food apart from other Asian cuisines is the use of fish sauce versus regular soy sauce. You can find numerous brands of it at your local Asian grocery store for <$2 a bottle. Fish sauce has a fishy odor to it in the bottle, but when used in dishes imparts a wonderfully umami flavor that makes a dish unmistakably Thai.  

I followed this recipe from Thai Table for all of the helpful tips and tricks (like how to get your noodles right), but made my own sauce because I didn't have tamarind paste (I used rice vinegar) and knew that it was mostly fish sauce. My recipe is not the most authentic, but more flexible to use up any veggies or protein you have on hand. Thai basil and peanuts are optional--limes are not! 

Yoyo's Easy Chicken Pad Thai
Serves 4
  • 1/2 package Pad Thai noodles
  • 1/2 red and 1/2 orange bell pepper
  • 1 onion
  • 1 uncooked chicken breast (feel free to use pork, beef, tofu, etc)
  • 1 lime
  • 1 t fish sauce
  • 1 t cooking oil
  • 2 eggs (optional, but used traditionally in pad thai)
  • Pad thai sauce:
    • 2 T fish sauce 
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1 T rice wine vinegar
    • 1 clove minced garlic
  • Garnishes (optional):
    • Thai basil
    • Spring onion
    • Crushed peanuts
    • Bean sprouts
1. Start by soaking your noodles for 30 minutes in a large bowl with tap water, making sure the water covers the noodles. 
2. Prep the rest of your ingredients while the noodles are soaking. Cut your bell peppers, slice your onion into strips, and cut up your chicken. Once they are ready, the rest of the recipe comes together fast. 
3. Marinate chicken in 1 t fish sauce until ready to use
4. Whisk the sauce ingredients together and set aside.
5. Heat up your wok or cast iron skillet with 1 tsp cooking oil to high. Quickly cook the chicken until no longer pink and then remove from the pan and set aside. 
6. Then, cook your onion and peppers in the same skillet, adding more oil if necessary. Once the veggies are soft (~5 minutes), drain the noodles and add the noodles to the hot skillet, stir frying until the noodles start to become soft.
7. Add the sauce and continue stir frying until noodles are soft to a desired consistency. If you want to add eggs, beat them together and add to one side of the pan with the noodles pushed to the other side. Then wait for eggs to set slightly before mixing together. 
8. Add back the chicken and mix again until the chicken is warmed. 
9. Once the veggies are cooked, the whole process should come together quickly, within 5-10 minutes. 
10. Add your garnishes: thai basil, spring onion, crushed peanuts, and even bean sprouts if you're feeling traditional.
11. When ready to serve, cut the lime into slices and squeeze fresh lime juice on top of each serving.

For me, the combination of pad thai noodles, sweet and savory sauce, crushed peanuts and freshly squeezed lime makes "pad thai," regardless of authenticity. Others agreed as well--I brought it to a potluck and my friends devoured it within the hour! 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Baltimore Half-Marathon

I ran a half-marathon! The Baltimore half-marathon to be exact and I lived to tell the tale. 

Not only did I finish, I finished at 2:09:55, which is about a 9:55 min/mile pace, not too shabby for my first one with little training. The marathon was so fun with people cheering you along, music pumping, and refueling stations (some handing out beer and wine) all along the way that I'm invigorated to run even more and am setting my sights on a marathon next! Here's how it went down.

I signed up for the half more than two months ago, before the craziness with Step 2, Los Angeles, and AHEC in rural MD all panned out because I was banking on having some free time in California and Southern Maryland to train. Before training, I was already running 3-4 miles 2-3x/week. While I did have some time while studying for boards and living in LA, I was stagnating and didn't really increase my mileage like I was supposed to, just running 4-5 miles here and there. On the weekends, I had no time to fit in long runs with traveling back and forth to LA, Baltimore, DC, Philly, and Mechanicsville, MD. Thankfully, the rural rotation I'm on right now is the lightest rotation I've ever been on and I've had plenty of time after I get off work to go for long runs in the countryside. But I was still miles behind what I was supposed to be before the half. Everyone that I had talked to recommended being able to run 10 miles before the 13.1 mile race, but my longest run was only 7 miles! 

But it was too late to back out now, and I told myself I would just walk half of it and not worry about my race time, just focus on finishing. And before I knew it, race day was here!

I ran for the University of Maryland Children's Heart Running Team, a charity to raise awareness for children's congenital heart diseases
Perfect weather on race day. Started off with my college and law school friend, Christine!

We accidentally started in the "first wave" of runners but hung back a little bit to settle into our pace. We took it at an easy 9-10 min/mile pace while we caught up law school/med school adventures and zoomed past some of the familiar sights in downtown Baltimore. Miles 3-4 were mainly uphill, but the hills were only gently sloping and not too bad. Halfway in, I wasn't tired and I actually felt like I could run forever! 

 Miles 7-8 took us by Lake Montebello in North Baltimore City

I first started feeling tired around mile 8, at the end of the loop by the lake. Running by this beautiful fall foliage on a perfect 70 degree day energized me though, so I pushed through and was able to keep a pretty good pace around 9:30 while we ran by the Johns Hopkins undergrad campus. 

At around 10.5 miles, I was feeling good again, and looked at my timer. An hour and 44 minutes! Before then, I hadn't even factored in the time aspect, but I was surprised to be making such good time and for a fleeting second thought I could finish the half in less than 2 hours. That hope quickly dissipated when I realized I would have to run at a 7 min/mile pace, way faster than what I had been doing the whole time. Oh well. A future goal to look forward to!
 Running by Parts and Labour, a butcher shop and restaurant near Hampden
Last 2 miles

The last 2-3 miles were probably the hardest for me. It's funny that adrenaline had kept me going all the way until mile 10 but then when I was closing in on the finish line and could see all the familiar sights of downtown, I could feel myself fading. I hadn't really felt tired during the whole race, but I definitely had to push myself for the last few miles. Thankfully, it wasn't too long before I ran past my apartment building past some of my friends who started cheering, and then finally made it to the finish line where I saw my family, who came out to support me.
Finish line!
Cheesin' post race
With my medal

 My paparazzo
The "I just ran 13.5 miles" jump!

All in all, I felt great after finishing. This was my longest run ever and I didn't even come close to collapsing from exhaustion (my worst fear). Sure my legs were sore, but mentally I was so excited and energized I could have gone for a few more. As for the soreness, it was nothing a little stretching and relaxing on the couch couldn't fix. I felt perfectly fine the next day. It was my first race ever, but I had so much fun I can't wait to run another one. Who wants to do it with me?!