Soto Betawi (Indonesian beef soup from Jakarta) Recipe

Updated: Sep 17

Soto Betawi is an Indonesian beef soup from Jakarta. Although the dish is quite modern, because it originates around 1977 - 1978, the name 'Betawi' has a lot more history to it. The name 'Betawi' refers to the native inhabitants of Jakarta, thus the name of this soup also means ‘from Jakarta’. Furthermore, ‘Betawi’ refers to the Indonesian word for the forerunner of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta ‘Batavia’.

Soto Betawi, Indonesian beef soup from Jakarta

Soto Betawi history

After a long history of clashes between Betawi people and Dutch colonist, the Indonesian government established 'Betawi' in the 1970's as a cultural heritage area that aims to preserve Betawi culture from extinction.


Soto Betawi became known to the general public around 1977 - 1978, although it was known before among locals. The name 'Soto Betawi' was first use by Lie Boen Po. Lie sold his version of soto at his restaurant THR Lokasari or Prinsen Park. First the soup was referred to as 'Soto Pak X'. After Lie closed his restaurant in 1991 the name 'Soto Betawi' became popular and widely used. Since then Soto Betawi's fame spread throughout many other Indonesian cities because of its distinctive taste.


How to make Soto Betawi

For this Soto Betawi we use plenty of beef. Go to your local butcher and ask for both beef shanks and beef ribs. First, we have to make sure to remove impurities from the beef meat. Cut the beef in 2 x 2 cm/ 1 x 1 inch pieces. Bring water to a boil in a large (soup) pan and add the beef pieces. Boil for 1 minute, drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water to remove the impurities. Set aside.

Ingredients for Soto Betawi, Indonesian beef soup from Jakarta

Next, make the spice paste (bumbu). Roast the kemiri nuts, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, white peppercorns and cinnamon stick for a few minutes until fragrant/ lightly charred. Grind the spices with a pestle in a mortar.

Frying coriander and cumin seeds, white peppercorns, cinnamon and kemiri nuts for Indonesian Soto Betawi bumbu

Roughly chop shallots, garlic and chilies. Peel the galangal, ginger and turmeric roots. Grate the ginger, roughly chop the galangal and turmeric roots. Add the ground spices, roasted kemiri nuts, shallots, garlic, chilies, grated ginger, sliced ​​galangal and turmeric roots with salt to a food processor and grind until a smooth paste forms (bumbu).

Bumbu spice paste for Indonesian Soto Betawi beef soup

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large (soup) pan and fry the bumbu for 5 minutes. Add the beef shank and rib pieces, mix well with the bumbu, and fry for a few minutes while stirring.

Frying beef shank and rib pieces in bumbu spice paste with lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves

Then, add 2 liters of water, crushed lemongrass stalks, salam leaves, lime leaves and crushed ginger, bring to the boil and simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours on low heat with the lid on the pan, or until beef is tender. Add coconut milk and palm sugar and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove beef shanks and ribs. Scrape the pith from the shanks and cut it into cubes.


Meanwhile, prepare the rice vermicelli according to the instructions on the package. First boil the water, then add the rice vermicelli and let it soak for 4 minutes (do not boil!). Cut the tomatoes into cubes, thinly slice spring onions and cut the limes into wedges.


Add the rice vermicelli to deep soup bowls, then beef shank, marrow cubes and beef rib cubes and pour over the hot soup. Garnish each bowl with diced tomatoes and spring onion, drizzle with a teaspoon of sweet soy sauce, garnish with fried onions and serve with lime wedges.


Delicious with melinjo crackers (emping), white rice (nasi putih) and pickled cucumber (acar ketimun).

Soto Betawi, Indonesian beef soup from Jakarta with tomatoes, spring onions and coconut, served with lime wedges

Ingredients for 6 - 8 people

For the soup:

  • 2 liters water

  • 750 gr/ 1.65 pounds beef shank, cut in pieces of 2 x 2 cm/ 1 x 1 inch

  • 750 gr/ 1.65 pounds beef ribs, in pieces of 2 x 2 cm/ 1 x 1 inch

  • 2 lemongrass stalks (sereh), outer leaves removed, bruised

  • 4 salam leaves (daun salam), bruised

  • 5 kaffir lime leaves (daun djeruk purut), bruised

  • 5cm/ 2 inch ginger root (djahé), bruised

  • 200ml coconut milk

  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (gula djawa)

  • 700 gr/ 1.55 pounds rice vermicelli

For the spice paste (bumbu):

  • 3 shallots

  • 5 garlic cloves

  • 5 large red chilies (lombok), optional 1 Thai bird's eye chili (cabe rawit)

  • 4cm/ 1.6 inch galangal root (laos)

  • 3cm/ 1.2 inch turmeric root (kunyit)

  • 2cm/ 0.8 inch ginger root (djahé), grated

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 4 kemiri nuts, roasted, can be substituted with macadamia nuts

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds, roasted

  • 3 teaspoons coriander seeds, roasted

  • 2 teaspoons white peppercorns, roasted

  • 1 cinnamon stick, roasted

  • Vegetable oil (coconut, peanut, sunflower)

For garnishing:

  • 2 tomatoes, in cubes

  • 2 spring onions, thinly sliced

  • Sweet soy sauce (kecap manis), to taste, 1 - 2 teaspoons per person

  • Fried onions or shallots

  • 2 limes, cut in wedges

Instructions

  • Bring plenty of water to a boil in a large (soup) pan. Add the beef shanks and ribs and boil for 1 minute. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water to remove any impurities. Set aside.

  • First make the spice paste (bumbu). Roast the kemiri nuts, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, white peppercorns and cinnamon stick for a few minutes until fragrant/ lightly charred. Grind the spices with a pestle in a mortar.

  • Roughly chop shallots, garlic and chilies. Peel the galangal, ginger and turmeric roots. Grate the ginger, roughly chop the galangal and turmeric roots. Add the ground spices, roasted kemiri nuts, shallots, garlic, chilies, grated ginger, sliced ​​galangal and turmeric roots with salt to a food processor and grind until a smooth paste forms (bumbu).

  • Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large (soup) pan and fry the bumbu for 5 minutes. Add the beef shank and rib pieces, mix well with the bumbu, and fry for a few minutes while stirring.

  • Add 2 liters of water, crushed lemongrass stalks, salam leaves, lime leaves and crushed ginger, bring to the boil and simmer for 2.5 to 3 hours on low heat with the lid on the pan, or until beef is tender.

  • Add coconut milk and palm sugar and cook for another 15 minutes.

  • Remove beef shanks and ribs. Scrape the pith from the shanks and cut it into cubes.

  • Meanwhile, prepare the rice vermicelli according to the instructions on the package. First boil the water, then add the rice vermicelli and let it soak for 4 minutes (do not boil!).

  • Cut the tomatoes into cubes, thinly slice spring onions and cut the limes into wedges.

  • Add the rice vermicelli to deep soup bowls, then beef shank, marrow cubes and beef rib cubes and pour over the hot soup.

  • Garnish each bowl with diced tomatoes and spring onion, drizzle with a teaspoon of sweet soy sauce, garnish with fried onions and serve with lime wedges.

  • Delicious with melinjo crackers (emping), white rice (nasi putih) and pickled cucumber (acar ketimun).

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