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Indonesian Soto Ayam - chicken soup


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I've had this dish in several different places in Indonesia so far - several different parts of Bali and in Yogyakarta (on the island of Java).  All of them have been pretty similar and I think this is pretty close to what I made most recently, although after some internet research, it seems that in other parts of Indonesia it would not be uncommon to add coconut milk.


This soup is made in a similar way to Indonesian/Malaysian/Nyonya curries - you make a spice paste which is then fried in oil for a while to bring out the aromatics to which a liquid is added.  The ratio of liquid to spice paste yields curry or soup.  Also, like so many foods of the region, it's open to customization - some places add stuff to the soup that others won't... like hard boiled egg.  One of the best versions of this soup I had was in Yogyakarta - my hotel had an Indonesian breakfast buffet and one area was a DIY soto ayam station.



At the right is a cauldron of simmering soup, and everything on the left is up to you.  The basics of what are added are chicken meat, shredded cabbage, mung bean noodles (aka cellophane noodles) and fried shallots.  And of course, being Indonesia, there's always at least one sambal to add some heat.




The base of this soup is chicken stock.  My recipe below uses 4C of homemade chicken stock (unsalted).  The stock gets simmered with aromatics, seasoned, and the chicken is then poached in the stock, removed, cooled and picked into shreds.  Aromatics removed and the prefried spice paste (rempah) are added.  It's not really practical to make a couple tablespoons of rempah, so the recipe below is for several meals for 2 people or so and the rest is frozen for later - I put it in a a ziplock bag, press into a flat sheet about 1cm thick - this way I can break off as much as I want while still frozen.  Also, when I say this is for 2 people, there's one caveat - my wife is not a huge fan of soup - she loves this dish, but only has maybe 1/3 of the liquid that I'd have.  So, with that being said...



About 1 inch galangal (fresh or frozen)

About 1 inch ginger

5 cloves garlic

4 candlenuts

About 1 heavy Tablespoon coriander seeds, dry fried until frangrant, then ground

About 1 inch fresh turmeric (or about 1/2 - 3/4t ground dried turmeric)

6 shallots


Blend the rempah ingredients in a blender, or ideally pound in a mortar.  I typically blend 3/4 of the way, then finish it in the mortar.


Fry the paste in a couple tablespoons of oil (I use rice bran oil) in a wok over medium heat to start, then turn it down to keep it from burning.  Stir contantly.  You know the paste is done when it looks quite dry and there is no liquid left and the oil separates back out at least partially - so it actually looks like it's frying.  It should be quite fragrant.



4C chicken stock

1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 2-3 pieces and bruised

5-6 kaffir lime leaves

2-3 daun salam (Indonesian bay) leaves if dried, 5-6 if fresh

1 chicken breast

Season with about 2t salt (start with less, and add until it tastes right) plus 1/2t MSG


Simmer the chicken stock with the aromatics for about 5 minutes, then add the chicken breast, cover and simmer until cooked through.


Remove the chicken breast to cool, and discard the aromatics


Taste the remaining stock for seasoning - it should be pretty strong as the noodles will dilute it a bit.


Add about 2T of the rempah to the soup and simmer for about 5 minutes.  While that's going, shred the chicken breast and prep the bowls with soaked/drained cellophane noodles, cabbage, chicken, fried shallot and cilantro/green onion.


Add the boiling soup to the bowls.  Garnish with sambal and a slice of lime.

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15 minutes ago, ElsieD said:

Oh, Lordy, this sounds good.  Is there a substitute for Indonesian bay?  And candlenuts?  Cashews, maybe?

Thanks - I love this dish.  Now that I have a bunch of pastes done, I can make it a lot more often.  My dried Indonesian bay leaves seem to be pretty similar to normal bay leaves, but they're a bit bigger, so maybe use more of them?  Maybe 4-5 normal dried bay leaves?  For candlenuts, the closest I can think of would be macadamias.  Candlenuts don't have much flavor, but they act as a sort of thickener.  They're commonly used in Indonesian/Malaysian/Nyonya curries.  The hardest to sub would be the galangal, because there really is nothing else really like it.  You could probably just leave it out and it will still be tasty, but it won't be the same... but if you've never had the original, you won't know what you're missing! ha!

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Thank you.  The odd ingredient then is fresh galangal but I have seen it in a store that I frequently shop it.  They  also carry kaffir lime leaves.  They carry a lot of items you can't find anywhere else.  I just made chicken broth so once I hit the store we should be good to go.

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2 hours ago, ElsieD said:

Thank you.  The odd ingredient then is fresh galangal but I have seen it in a store that I frequently shop it.  They  also carry kaffir lime leaves.  They carry a lot of items you can't find anywhere else.  I just made chicken broth so once I hit the store we should be good to go.

Let me know how it goes - I'm not used to writing recipes - I wrote this just to keep a record for myself for the next time I make it, but I'm curious how an outsider will find my sometimes nebulous instructions.  Also let me know if something isn't clear before you get started....

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