Indonesian Chicken Soup - Soto Ayam

Soto Ayam, an Indonesian version of chicken soup, is a clear herbal broth brightened by fresh turmeric and herbs, with skinny noodles buried in the bowl. It may be served with a boiled egg, fried shallots, celery leaves and herbs, and is hearty enough for a meal.

1  1/2 pounds, chicken thighs and or breast pieces (add a pound if serving as a whole meal)
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, bruised with the handle of a heavy knife and tied in a knot
6 kaffir lime leaves (optional) (Granville Island?)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 ½ tablespoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
5 shallots, peeled and halved
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
2 tablespoons finely minced  fresh ginger ( or ground)
3 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil
4 ounces thin dried rice or wheat noodles, called vermicelli (Fresh street market)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped basil, mint, or cilantro leaves
2 shallots, thinly sliced and fried in vegetable oil until brown (optional)
 Quartered limes
 chili paste (such as sambal) for serving (T&T or Osaka market?)

YIELD: 4 servings as a meal, 8 servings as an appetizer

COURSE: Soups and Stews



  1. Place chicken in a medium pot with lemon grass, lime leaves (if using), salt and 2 quarts water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Skim off any foam and reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer until chicken is tender, about 45 minutes, skimming as needed to make a clear broth. Remove chicken pieces from broth and set aside. Remove and discard lemon grass and lime leaves; reserve stock in pot. When chicken is cool enough to handle, discard skin and bones and shred meat into bite-size pieces.
  2. Meanwhile, combine peppercorns, coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a small food processor. Pulse until ground. Add halved shallots, garlic, turmeric and ginger and pulse to a thick paste. (Add a little water if needed.)
  3. Heat peanut oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. When very hot, add spice paste and cook, stirring until paste is cooked and beginning to separate from the oil, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add cooked spice paste and chicken meat to stock. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.
  5. Cook noodles according to package directions.
  6. Turn off heat under soup and stir in lime juice. Taste for salt.
  7. To serve, divide noodles in large soup bowls. Ladle chicken pieces and soup on top and sprinkle with celery leaves or herbs, and fried shallots, if using. Pass lime and sambal at the table.
  8. Eat from soup bowl, or serve a scoop of rice on a side plate, sprinkled with more shallots, and put a mouthful of noodles and chicken on rice. Combine on a spoon, dab with sambal, and eat.