How to make this aromatic meal in a bowl: Soto Ayam


soto ayam complete

Welcome to Friday! We think it is an opportune time to talk ‘soup’ and here’s why…

My ‘inner country girl’ sensed a change in the weather whilst out walking this week. I wondered if the cool breeze and ever so slight drop in temperature I felt was perhaps an indication that the ‘rainy season’ was on its way. Rainy season days often begin bright and sunny, but by mid to late afternoon, the clouds come rolling in, and all I feel like doing is ‘hunkering down’ for the night and listening to the sound of tropical rain hammering down on my roof. Added to that, life in Jakarta is pretty busy at the moment. The kids are back in school, family and work schedules are full and life is…to put it simply…hectic! Perfect conditions for soup!

In today’s post we show you how to make Indonesian ‘comfort food‘ for ‘busy times‘ and ‘rainy season days‘. Soto Ayam, AKA chicken soup is an aromatic soup which comprises a beautiful herbal broth brightened by fresh turmeric and herbs, shredded fresh chicken, vegetables and skinny rice noodles nicely buried at the bottom of the bowl. Soto Ayam is served with boiled egg, thinly fried potato chips, a sprinkling of celery leaves, and finished off with a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Soto Ayam has become one of my family’s favourite meals. We have a steady supply of chicken stock in the freezer which is the basis for this simple recipe; and all the other ingredients are pantry staples and regular grocery list items. Admittedly, the ingredients list is long, but I have a hunch you will find it worthwhile.

We hope you get a chance to try it too. Soto Ayam is light, refreshing and soothing to the palette, but also hearty enough to be a ‘meal in a bowl’ really. And the best bit…If you lay out all the ingredients in the middle of the table, each family member can customise their Soto Ayam just the way they like it…bespoke Soto Ayam!

But be careful though…It just might end up on your child’s Instagram account… or your own for that matter! The bright colours of Soto Ayam make for photo worthy ‘Insta pics!’


Soto Ayam

Serves: 4

For the chicken broth, chicken meat, vegetables and noodles

1 large fresh chicken
12 cups (3 litres) water
2 stalks lemongrass, (serai) thick bottom third only, outer layers discarded, inner part bruised
200 grams dried cellophane noodles (sohun), soaked in water to soften or dried rice vermicelli
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered (telur)
1 cup bean sprouts,(tauge) rinsed and blanched in hot water
1 cup chopped white cabbage (kubis putih)
2 tomatoes,(tomat) seeds discarded and chopped (optional)
1/2 cup chopped celery leaves

For the spice paste (rempah)
2.5 cm piece fresh turmeric, (kunyit) peeled and sliced or 1 tsp ground turmeric
2.5 cm piece fresh ginger, peeled, sliced (jahe)
2.5 cm piece galangal, peeled, sliced (laos)
5 kaffir lime leaves (daun jeruk purut)
3 Indonesian bay leaves (daun salam)
6 cloves garlic (bawang putih)
5 shallots, peeled (bawang mereh)
2 cardamom pods (polong kapulaga)
3 candlenuts (buah kemiri)
3 cloves (cengkeh)
1 tsp whole white peppercorns (lada putih)
1/2 tsp cumin (jinten)
pinch of grated nutmeg (pala), pinch of cinnamon (kayu manis)
1 tblsp coriander seeds (biji ketumbar)
1 tblsp oil

To garnish
Homemade crispy fried potato chips or fried shallots
Finely chopped celery leaves
Lime wedges to serve

For the spice paste
1. Grind the turmeric, ginger, galangal, shallots, garlic, cardamom pods, coriander, kaffir lime leaves, candlenut, cloves, cumin, peppercorns, nutmeg and cinnamon to a smooth paste in a mortar and pestle or blender, adding a little oil if necessary to keep the mixture turning.
2. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat and stir fry the ground paste until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Set aside.

For the chicken broth
1. Clean and rinse the chicken well, and dry.
2. Bring the water to the simmer over medium heat in a large pot then immerse the chicken into the simmering water. Add the lemongrass, bay leaves and spice paste and simmer slowly for 1 hour.
3. Remove and drain the chicken.
4. Strain and reserve the stock.
5. Separate the chicken meat from the bone and tear the meat into thin shreds. Set aside.

Putting it altogether
Bring 8 cups (2 litres) of reserved broth to the boil in a pot. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered for about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and keep the broth hot over very low heat.

To serve
Place the softened cellophane noodles, shredded chicken, boiled eggs, bean sprouts, cabbage, tomato, crispy fried potatoes or shallots and lime wedges on a large platter accompanied by a pot of hot broth.

Cook’s notes

  • Add some heat to your Soto Ayam with sliced red chilli or fresh sambal
  • The juice of one lemon will also add some zing

(Recipe Credit: Ibu Mina)

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Fresh spices (bumbu dapur) Clockwise: candlenut, Indonesian bay leaf, lemongrass, kaffir lime, ginger, galangal, coriander seeds, cumin, white peppercorns, cloves, shallots, garlic
The fresh ingredients: shredded chicken, boiled egg, noodles, lime wedges, tomato, celery leaves, bean sprouts and fried shallots
Place the fresh ingredients onto the table, accompanied by a piping hot saucepan of chicken broth seasoned with Indonesian spices.
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Soto Ayam is sometimes considered ‘Indonesia’s National dish”, as it is served from Sumatra to Papua, with many varieties. It is very easy to make Soto Ayam ‘your own’ though, as you experiment with different flavours and ingredients.
Family and friends can place the desired portions of noodles,chicken,vegetables and herbs into their bowls and ladle the aromatic broth over the top.
Indonesian ‘comfort food’ for ‘busy times’ and ‘rainy season days’. Selamat Makan! Enjoy your meal!

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*Rainy season or Musim Hujan: typically the wet period between November and February

Words Liz  Photography a journey bespoke


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