Soto Ayam (Indonesian chicken soup) Recipe

Updated: Mar 15

In the Netherlands almost everybody knows soto. It literally means soup and it is considered one of Indonesia's national dishes. Many traditional soups in Indonesia are called soto, whereas foreign and Western influenced soups are called sop. Apart from Indonesia, soto is also popular in Malaysia, Singapore and Surinam (saoto) as well as in the Netherlands of course.


The history of soto isn't exactly clear but people think that Chinese immigrants brought the soup to Semarang, Java during Dutch colonial rule in the 17th century. Indonesian cuisine wasn't familiar with soups before then but they quickly made their own version - just like they did with soy sauce.

Home-cooked Soto Ayam (chicken soup)

Soto is mainly composed of broth, meat, and vegetables but there are many varieties throughout the archipelago. Many soto varieties include tripe as meat. Tripe is a type of edible lining from the stomachs of various farm animals. The French are famous for their tripe soup as well. Luckily this version of soto contains chicken, but varieties with pork, beef, goat and sheep are also common.


In the Netherlands you can find soto at many Indonesian restaurants and toko's (shops). On the island of Java soto is obviously abundantly available. When I visited Indonesia with my mother in 2017 there was a soto street cart next to our hotel in Yogyakarta. The soto of the street cart vendor was amazing so we had it every day for lunch.

Street food Soto Ayam (chicken soup) in Yogyakarta

Cooking Soto Ayam requires quite some preparation and it isn't the easiest dish to make. Preparing the broth alone already takes about 3,5 hours but the end result, a savory, fresh and sour chicken broth is worth your while. If you don't want to make the broth like this you can use pre-made chicken stock cubes.

Soto Ayam broth ingredients: whole chicken, ginger, Kaffir lime leaves, salam leaves, garlic, lemongrass

To make the broth first heat oil in a big (soup) pan and roast whole chicken on all sides till it's browned. Add 3 liters of water, peeled ginger slices, peeled galangal root, bruised lemongrass stalks, torn kaffir lime leaves, salam leaves, crushed garlic cloves and salt to the pan. Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for 3 hours with the lid on the pan.

After boiling for 3 hours remove chicken from pan and set aside until cooled down. Sieve the broth twice and remove the herbs. Now you can reduce the broth until 2-2,5 liters if you want. Once the chicken is cool enough to handle clean the chicken meat (remove bones, cartilage etc.) and set aside.



Now it's time to prepare the contents of the soup: peel the hard-boiled eggs, cook the green beans al dente in 5 minutes, add leek after 3 minutes. Pour boiling water over the bean sprouts. Pick the leaves of the celery. Thinly slice the chilli and remove seeds and stems if you like. Mix sweet soy sauce Kecap Manis with lemonjuice. Cook the pandan rice in 10 minutes, drain, stir well and let rest for 10 minutes. Pour boiling water over the rice vermicelli and soak for 4 minutes (do not boil). Keep all ingredients in separate containers.


Next is to make the bumbu (spice paste) for the soup. Cut all ingredients for the spice paste roughly and grind in a food processor until a smooth paste forms.


Heat oil in a big pan and fry the spice paste for 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Add the chicken meat, mix well, and fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add chicken broth to the pan and simmer for 5 more minutes.


Put the pan with the hot chicken broth and all soup ingredients and garnishes on the dinner table. Fill the soup plates with soup ingredients and pour over the chicken broth. Garnish with fried onions or shallots, celery, sliced chilli, sambal (kecap) and sweet soy sauce (kecap manis). Selamat makan (enjoy!)



Ingredients for 6 - 8 portions

For the broth:

  • 1 whole chicken of 1,5kg/ 3,3 pounds

  • 100gr/ 3,5 ounce ginger, peeled and sliced

  • 2cm/ 1inch galangal root (laos), peeled

  • 3 lemongrass stalks (sereh), bruised

  • 5 Kaffir lime leaves (daun djeruk perut), leaves torn

  • 5 Salam leaves (daun salam), leaves torn

  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed and halved

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 3 tablespoons oil

  • 3 liters/ 100 fl. oz. water

For the spice paste (bumbu):

  • 2 onions

  • 3 garlic cloves

  • 4 candlenuts (kemiri)

  • 2cm/ 1 inch galangal root (laos), peeled (or 1 teaspoon galangal powder)

  • 3cm/ 1,2inch ginger, peeled and grated

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (djintan)

  • 1,5 teaspoon ground coriander (ketumbar)

  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric (kunyit)

  • 1 teaspoon sambal kecap (or another chilli paste)

  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste (trassi)

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (coconut oil, peanut oil or sunflower oil)

For the soup:

  • 2 liter/ 68 fl. oz. chicken broth (see above)

  • 200gr/ 7 ounce (mung) bean sprouts

  • 200gr/ 7 ounce green beans, halved

  • 1 leek, halved and cut in slices

  • 200gr/ 7 ounce rice vermicelli

  • 200gr/ 7 ounce (pandan) rice

  • 1 hardboiled egg per person

  • 50ml sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) mixed with 2 teaspoons lemon juice

  • Fried onions / shallots as garnish

  • Celery as garnish

  • 1 (Spanish) chilli (lombok), seeds and stem removed and sliced thinly, as garnish

  • Sambal kecap (or another chilli paste)


Instructions

  • Cut off top and bottom of the lemongrass stalks, remove outer layers and bruise the stalks with the back of a kitchen knife.

  • Heat oil in a big (soup) pan. Roast whole chicken on all sides.

  • Add water, ginger, galangal root, lemongrass stalks, kaffir lime leaves, salam leaves, garlic cloves and salt to the pan.

  • Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for 3 hours with the lid on the pan.

  • Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

  • Sieve the broth twice and remove the herbs.

  • You can reduce the stock a little further (2-2.5 liters) if you want.

  • Clean the chicken meat (remove bones, cartilage etc.) and set aside.


  • Now prepare the contents of the soup: peel the hard-boiled eggs, cook the green beans al dente in 5 minutes, add leek after 3 minutes. Pour boiling water over the bean sprouts. Cook the pandan rice in 10 minutes, drain, stir well and let rest for 10 minutes. Pour boiling water over the rice vermicelli and soak for 4 minutes (do not boil). Keep all ingredients in separate containers.


  • Cut all ingredients for the spice paste (bumbu) roughly and grind in a food processor until a smooth paste forms.

  • Heat oil in a big pan and fry the spice paste for 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Add the chicken meat, mix well, and fry for another 2-3 minutes.

  • Add chicken broth to the pan and simmer for 5 more minutes.

  • Put the pan with the hot chicken broth and all soup ingredients and garnishes on the dinner table. Fill the soup plates with soup ingredients and pour over the chicken broth. Garnish with fried onions or shallots, celery, sliced chilli, sambal (kecap) and sweet soy sauce (kecap manis).

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