Ho Chi Minh Chicken

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gAndrea Meyers - Ho Chi Minh Chicken

Food 2.0, by Charlie AyersThis is my interpretation of a dish from Chef Charlie Ayers, who gained a reputation as the chef who fed Google. He won the job of Google’s corporate chef at a cook-off in 1999, and his cooking became famous for being innovative, healthy, and delicious. Now Chef Ayers consults with companies on restructuring food service to compliment the corporate culture. I would be very interested to see what he and other chefs concerned with healthy eating could do with school cafeteria menus, which are often abysmal at best. Now that is a challenge worth taking on!

As both an amateur cook and professional geek, I have a dual interest in Ayers’ new book Food 2.0. The introduction explains how he got the job at Google and how the philosophy of the founders spilled over into the kitchen. The book is filled with recipes for light and healthy meals and snacks calling for fresh wholesome ingredients as well the occasional story about cooking and working at Google.

“I was employee #53 at Google, and even though I really wanted the job I thought Larry and Sergey were crazy when they hired me.”

“When I left Google in May 2005, I had five sous chefs and 150 employees working for me in 10 cafes across the company’s sprawling Mountain View, California headquarters. We were serving 4,000 lunches and dinners daily to a team of people as diverse and hard-working as any on the planet.”

“Each meal is an opportunity to make a difference—in your body and your world.”

“I want to help people eat better, and if we don’t have a lot of time, then let’s do it quickly.”

You’re smart. So why don’t you eat that way?

Ayers has a direct approach and speaks honestly about his philosophy on using fresh, local, organic ingredients. He even admits that some of his favorite things aren’t local—bananas, coffee beans, ingredients for chocolate—and he is fine with that. He has a perfect location in the San Francisco Bay Area with access to a year-round bounty of fresh local ingredients which inspires his cooking. Climate differences makes it more of a challenge during the cold winter months in much of the rest of the country which relies on fresh foods shipped in from California and other warm states. The book definitely has a California influence, but substitutions are always possible to keep your cooking seasonal, and often less costly.

My take on Ayers’ recipe reflects the ingredients we had on hand. I used a handful of snowpeas instead of green beans, lemon basil fresh from my garden instead of lemongrass, and extra chicken instead of the shrimp. We served it with his chili-cilantro rice (photo below) and enjoyed the fresh, vibrant flavors in both. I also made his spinach latkes which were probably some of the best latkes we’ve ever tasted, though not as pretty as the latkes in his book. Sometimes foods taste great but don’t photograph well, and that was the case with my latkes!

Food 2.0 give away

Now for the fun stuff! I’m giving away a copy of Ayers book as well as a nifty matching lunch bag to carry your healthy lunches. To enter the give away, just leave a comment telling us about your favorite healthy meal or snack. Please make sure your email address is correct so I can contact you if you are the lucky winner. Apologies to my international readers, but the book and lunch bag can only be shipped within the continental U.S. The contest closes at 8 P.M. EST on Thursday June 19, and Random.org will select the winner. Look for the announcement of the winner in this post soon after.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Victoria of Feed Yourself! A copy of Food 2.0 and the matching lunch bag are heading your way! Thanks again to everyone who entered.


Adapted from Food 2.0 by Charlie Ayers.




1 tablespoon canola oil
1/3 cup diced onions
1/3 cup matchstick carrots
handful of snow peas
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped lemon basil or lemongrass
2 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons dark low sodium soy sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoons palm sugar or light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
fresh ground black pepper
shredded romaine lettuce (optional)


1. Heat the oil in the wok and stir-fry the onions, carrots, and snow peas for 2 minutes. Add the lemon basil and chicken and stir-fry for 2 more minutes.

2. Add the garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, palm sugar, toasted sesame oil, and black pepper and stir-fry for 30 seconds.

3. Serve immediately straight out of the wok if you want to be casual, or on a bed of the shredded romaine for presentation.

More Asian-Inspired Recipes

Chinese Lemon Chicken Chinese Chicken and Broccoli Chinese Beef and Bell Pepper with Black Bean Sauce

[Disclosure: This blog earns a small commission through affiliate links.]


  1. says

    I love vitamuffin tops. Sure, they require only thawing, but they’re full o’ chocolatey snack goodness and NOT BAD FOR YOU! I also love making a soup using black beans, chicken sausage, roasted corn, roasted tomatoes, chicken broth, and rosemary. So, there’s snack and meal both. Hope I win the cookbook, but either way, thanks for directing me to it–it looks fab!
    Gwendolen Gross
    author of THE OTHER MOTHER

  2. says

    I make this awesome pizza with frozen spinach, canned diced tomatoes, feta, and jarred pesto. Not exactly fresh, not really cooking, but quick, healthy, low in calories, and delicious!

  3. victoria says

    Favorite Healthy Snack is without a doubt HUMMUS. Plenty of protein and fiber. Delicious taste and texture. It’s filling. It travels well. I omit tahini because I find it a bit bitter so I save a huge amount of calories too. Sauteed onions and garlic are added to mine. It’s just great.

  4. says

    My favorite snack foods are fresh fruits. Right now strawberries are in season, so I’ve been gorging myself on fresh berries for the past 3 weeks. Sadly, I don’t think I will be sick of them by the time the season ends, which will leave me craving more! Thankfully peach season is right around the corner to help soothe my heartache (or stomachache as the case may be).

  5. says

    Your blog is great, I came upon it when searching for a recipe for Sangria (found your White Sangria which I plan to try this week!) and really loved to read your posts and see your nice recipes!

    My favorite snack is definitely Fruit! Pure, nice and simple fruit! And now in the summertime my favorite way of having it is frozen! Barely frozen blueberries and raspberries are just amazing! Let them sit for about 10 minutes out of the freezer and you have the most refreshing, sweet and healthy snack possible.
    Berries are great, but you know which one is my very favorite? Frozen Mangoes! Oh my, they are awesome, creamy and delicious, sweet, pure delight! Try it sometime, frozen mango chuks, you bite into them and it feels like you got a piece of the creamiest and richest ice cream.
    Fruit is nature’s sweet perfection! Best snack ever!

  6. says

    I’m with Ana. My favorite healthy snack is definitely fruit. I love chilled grapes or tasty strawberries. Always hits the spot for me for those 4PM cravings.

  7. says

    I’m in Canada right now. Land of the no cuisine. You webiste remninds me that food can be good. And as for the book…I’d love one!!

  8. says

    What a wonderful giveaway!!!

    Honestly, my fav healthy meal is yogurt. I could eat it for every meal & every snack.
    I even give YoBaby yogurt to my son every morning for breakfast. He loves it!!!

  9. says

    Hi, Andrea. The chicken dish looks delish to me!

    My favorite healthy snack is also tzatziki sauce with home-baked pita chips. And one of my favorite healthy meals is grilled chicken in pita with lettuce, tomato and more tzatziki sauce. Love that stuff, especially in the summer. I really need to make some more and blog about it.

  10. says

    My favorite healthy meal is a green salad chock full of a variety of greens, veggies, some protein, seeds or nuts, with a homemade salad dressing with a multi-grain roll on the side. Yum! Especially if someone else does all the prep work, then is doubly delicious!

  11. Patti says

    my favorite meal that’s healthy is salmon with a touch of lime and lemon juice and spinach with a sprinkle of feta cheese. i watch calories and the hour or lateness and try not to eat after 7pm at night. i really need to find more recipes for easy cooking and that are easy on my and my daughter’s insides. we have issues but she also has crohn’s. i love your site and would love a new cookbook. thanks for the great ideas and your photos are wonderful because now i know what they really will look like when i attempt them. thanks again.

  12. says

    A couple years ago, my husband and I – by no means incredible athletes – got involved in the sport of triathlon. As our excitement for swim, bike, & run developed, so did our desire to come up with tasty, yet healthy meal alternatives. My husband loves to grill, so one of our favorite healthy meals is a grilled portobello mushroom burger. I marinate the portobellos in balsalmic vinegar, garlic, and olive oil, then grill them for about 5 minutes per side. Served on honey wheat buns, with a sprinkling of gorgonzola cheese, red onion, lettuce and tomatoes, these burgers are healthy and incredibly tasty. They are perfect on a warm summer day served with a side of fruit and corn on the cob!

  13. BethL. says

    Looks and sounds delicious…the rice too!!! Can I reach over the fence and “borrow” some lemon basil???? I’ve never even heard of that and it, in and of itself, sounds wonderful…


  14. Carolyn says

    my favorite snack is a banana topped with Cool Whip free. Not exactly Healthy, but tastes like banana cream pie!

  15. Linda Pinto says

    My favorite dish is chicken curry made with skinless boneless chicken breats, lots of spices and fat free yogurt, onions, garlic, fresh ginger etc. Much flavor, low fat.

  16. Tangie says

    My favorite healthy snack is carrot sticks and celery sticks with non fat or low fat ranch dressing! Yum! I’m also a big fan of quaker mini rice cakes.

  17. Kristina Tyner says

    I am trying to eat more healthily. Lately I have discovered that using non-fat cottage cheese instead of dressing on a salad makes it way more satisfying, and I do not get hungry again an hour later

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