An Indonesian version of chicken soup, Soto Ayam, is a clear herbal broth brightened by fresh turmeric and herbs, with skinny rice noodles buried in the bowl. It’s closest to laksa, but with way less coconut milk. Other ingredients are onions and garlic, ginger, cumin, lemongrass, coriander, and sometimes Koya, a mixed prawn cracker and fried garlic powder. It is also commonly served with boiled eggs, a hot chilli paste (sambal) and deep-fried Indonesian crackers.
Like chicken soup in western countries, it is a portion of comfort food and a ‘go-to’ dish when people feel under the weather. Due to the number of migrant Indonesian workers, Soto Ayam can be found in several countries in South East Asia, including Singapore and Malaysia. It can be served in small portions as an appetizer or as a hearty and nourishing main course in more giant bowls.
Although Soto is a part of the Indonesian culinary tradition, it is not originally from Indonesia. Some historians suggest that it was probably influenced by foreign culinary traditions, especially Chinese. It is often believed that the origin of Soto was a Chinese soup, Cau do (Chau tu), which is a Chinese word. Thus, Cao means grass, Shao means cooking, and du means stomach, beef offal, or tripe. Up to 75 unique forms of Soto were identified in Indonesia; varieties of Soto are distinguished by the type of broth and herbs used.
Tips for cooking Soto Ayam
Store the leftover Soto Ayam paste in an airtight container. It will last up to 5 days in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer. By storing your spices in a cool, dark place, you will extend the life of the spices and herbs, maintaining their freshness for a more extended period. In addition, preserving them in vacuum sealer bags or mason jars will help keep their flavour and freshness.
You can add lime juice to your Soto. They brighten up and balance the salty, rich flavours of the dish and make all of the ingredients come into line. Like a vinaigrette on a salad, the pickle on a burger, and the sour cream in a coffee cake, a squeeze of lemon gives the chicken soup a game-changing brightness.
Boil chicken in cold water or plain water. By doing so, more fat in the chicken meat will be removed, and the chicken will be cooked perfectly.
To serve – customize your own toppings.
- Rice vermicelli (cook according to the product packaging) or substitute with white rice
- Bean sprout
- Shredded cabbage
- Boiled eggs
- Fried shallots
- Sliced tomatoes
- Lime wedges
- Chilli sauce or sambals
- Indonesian crackers
Soto Ayam: Nutritional Facts
The nutrient content in the Soto Ayam is the same as other chicken soup, but it has more protein and carbohydrates. In each serving (1 bowl), Soto Ayam contains 219 calories, 18 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fat, 19 grams protein and 1200 milligrams sodium. The protein content in Soto Ayam is relatively high due to animal and plant-based protein sources, such as bean sprouts, shredded chicken, boiled eggs, and fish in Indonesian crackers.
Mung beans sprouts are very nutritious and low-calorie foods. Mung sprouts carry just 30 cal/100 g in contrast with 347 cal/100 g of seeds. Their calorie value can be compared to that of leafy greens like spinach. Sprouted mung beans are fibre and protein-rich, low-fat and cholesterol-free food. 100 grams of mung sprouts hold 3.04 g or 5% of recommended daily protein values. Mung bean sprout is the primary source of lysine valine and arginine, essential amino acids that the body cannot make. Some investigations have involved the phytochemicals contained in mung bean sprouts as an antioxidant against diabetes, hypertension and cancer.
Compared to other chicken soups, Soto Ayam contains higher antioxidants due to the turmeric compound. Apart from the yellow colour and a little peppery flavour, turmeric has the most active compound, called curcumin. Many scientifically proven health benefits of turmeric, such as the potential to improve heart health, skin lightening agent, increase liver health and prevent Alzheimer’s. It’s a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It may also help improve symptoms of depression and arthritis.
Soto Ayam (Indonesian Chicken Soup with Vermicelli)
1 whole chicken, cut into 4 to 6 pieces
8 cups water
3 lemongrass stalks (trimmed and bruised)
4 Kafir lime leaves
8 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
3 shallots (thinly sliced)
5 cm fresh ginger (peeled, finely grated)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1.5 teaspoon ground coriander
2 teaspoon salt
Place the chicken in a saucepan. Add the water, lemongrass, lime leaves, half the garlic and salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked.
Transfer the chicken to a plate, reserving the poaching liquid. Cool slightly. Shred the chicken and then transferred it to a bowl and kept warm.
Use a mortar and pestle to pound French shallot, ginger and remaining garlic until coarse paste forms. Add the cumin, ground coriander and peppercorns. Pound until peppercorns are coarsely crushed. Stir in turmeric.
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the French shallot mixture for 3 minutes or until aromatic. Add reserved poaching liquid. Bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 5 minutes to develop the flavours. Strain through a fine sieve into a large bowl.
Cook the noodles following packet directions. Drain. Divide among bowls. Top with the chicken and shallot. Divide the broth among 4 bowls. Top with egg, bean sprouts, a hot chilli paste (sambal) and deep-fried Indonesian crackers.