Soto ayam is a chicken soup dish originated from Indonesia and is popular in Malaysia and Singapore. However, you have to take a paradigm shift to appreciate it. Unlike a creamy soup, it’s a clear soup with loads of ingredients and condiments. Turmeric is the ingredient that makes yellow, coupled with spices like cumin, fennel, star anise, and cinnamon, and there is no other chicken soup that comes close to it.
In this article, I will show you my interpretation of soto ayam, Malaysian style.
There is no definitive way to prepare soto ayam, so I will not claim this recipe to be authentic. However, I will break down the process so that it is easy to follow. Along the way, I will also mention which are the must-have ingredients and condiments, and the add-on items that you can consider.
The making of soto ayam is not tricky. However, it does involve a few different steps.
- Prepare the soup base
- Saute the spice mix
- Get ready the condiments
Let’s get started.
1. Prepare the soup base
The flavor of the soup is mainly derived from the chicken. Some cooks prefer to deep-fry the chicken first before using it to prepare the soup. It helps to create an extra layer of flavor.
- Cut the chicken to a few large chunks to make the chicken soup. I prefer to use chicken thigh over breast because it is more tender and juicer and will to become tough even simmer for a long time.
- Clean the chicken thoroughly with water. Rub in the salt and let it marinate for half a day. Most of the salt will dissolve into the broth eventually but there will still be some in the meat which makes it slightly salty.
- Deep-fry the chicken until it is brown on the outside.
- Place the chicken in a stockpot filled with water.
- Add the following spices: cinnamon bark, star anise, bashed lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves. Seasoned with salt and pepper.
- Add the sauteed spice mix (prepared in the next section) to the broth.
- Simmer over low heat until all the flavor is extracted from the chicken. The simmering may take about 1 hour. Maintain the temperature at a bare simmer to ensure that the chicken meat ends up tender and soft.
- Remove the chicken and filter the chicken broth through a wire mesh strainer. When the chicken is cold, shred the chicken meat into small pieces as one of the dishes’ condiments.
- Let the chicken broth pass through a wire mesh strainer to remove the spices.
2. Prepare the spice mix
The unique flavor of soto ayam mostly comes from the spice mix. (Otherwise, It will taste just like any other chicken soup.) There are two components of the spice mix.
The first part is the dry ingredients. I use fennel seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, white peppercorns, cardamom, and cloves. Blend these ingredients into a fine powder with a spice blender. If you are unable to get the fresh seeds, substitute with ground spices.
The second part of the ingredients is fresh aromatics. The ingredients I use are shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, and turmeric. You may add a few candlenuts, which will make the soup more gravy-like. Blend these ingredients with two tablespoons of oil until it becomes a smooth paste.
Miix both parts in a pan and saute until aromatic. Now transfer the aromatic spice mix into the filtered chicken broth. Bring it to a boil and add a quarter cup of coconut cream to enhance the flavor.
If you find the broth is too diluted, simmer it for a while to concentrate the flavor. Season with salt.
Now let’s move on to prepare the noodles and other condiments.
3. Prepare the condiments
In this section, I will divide the condiments into two parts. The first part is the essential ingredients. The second part is those ingredients used by various cooks in different regions of Indonesia and Malaysia. Some of these ingredients are not readily available outside Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
The essential condiments
The shredded chicken meat
Important because soto ayam means chicken soup in Indonesian and Malay language. As I mentioned earlier, some cooks prefer to deep-fry the chicken, either before or after simmering. You may do so if you want an extra flavor, but I just keep it simple by simmering the chicken until tender and soft.
The rice vermicelli, yellow noodles, compressed rice (nasi impit), and potato pancake (begedil)
The next group of condiments is the carbohydrates.
I am using rice vermicelli in this recipe for simplicity. It is also an ingredient that is relatively easy to get in different regions. We use rice vermicelli to prepare Singapore noodles. Another popular alternative is the yellow noodles available locally.
There are two ways to serve the rice vermicelli. If you prefer to serve it as a noodle dish, blanch a larger portion of the rice vermicelli in boiling water until it turns soft. Place the rice vermicelli in a bowl and ladled the chicken broth on top.
If you prefer it to be one of the condiments, throw a small number of glass noodles into some hot oil in a wok. The glass noodles will expand rapidly and turn crispy. The crispiness will provide a welcoming contrast to the texture of other components.
Note: rice vermicelli is called 米粉 in Chinese, mee hoon in Malay. It is not the same as glass noodles 冬粉. Glass noodles used in the recipe for ants climbing a tree and spring rolls.
Nasi impit is the compressor rice made by compressing the freshly cooked rice in a flat container. Cover the rice with a plastic sheet or banana leaf, then put something heavy on top to compress the rice. When the rice is cold, cut it into cubes and serve.
Begedil (also spell as perkedel, bergedel, pegedil) is a type of local potato pancake. The shredded potato is deep-fried, mixed with spring onions, coriander leaves, egg, and sometimes minced meat. It is then formed into a ball and deep-fried. (Please refer to the note section of the recipe card for how to make the simple begedil.)
You can choose any one of the above or a combination for the soto ayam.
The secondary condiments
Now that you have a choice to use all these ingredients or selectively. Bean sprouts and the fried shallots are two that should not be omitted. That is because the bean sprouts have a crunchy texture as opposed to the soft and tender chicken meat and the soft noodles. As for the fried shallots, it is incredibly fragrant and delicious as a crispy topping. We use fried shallots in a variety of Malaysian dishes. You can follow the instructions in my Ipoh hor fun recipe.
You can use scallion and coriander leaves or both as the garnish and flavor. I prefer coriander leaves as it has a stronger flavor, but that is entirely up to you.
As for the red chilies, it is more for garnishing. If you want it to be spicier, you can bash a few bird’s-eye chilies and add to the soup or blend with the aromatics in the previous section.
A hard-boiled egg is quite a standard edition to the Malaysian style soto ayam. it is also the main component of the national dish of Malaysia, nasi lemak.
To assemble the ingredients
- To serve, place the rice vermicelli in the bowl. Topped with the shredded chicken meat, bean sprouts, and hard-boiled egg. If you are serving it with nasi impit or begedil, put them on top of the rice vermicelli.
- Ladle sufficient chicken broth into the bowl.
- Add the fried shallots, chopped spring onions, coriander leaves, and sliced red chili.
Soto ayam is a chicken soup dish originated from Indonesia and is popular in Malaysia and Singapore. However, you have to take a paradigm shift to appreciate it. Unlike a creamy soup, it's a clear soup with loads of ingredients and condiments. Turmeric is the ingredient that makes yellow, coupled with spices like cumin, fennel, star anise, and cinnamon, and there is no other chicken soup that comes close to it.
The dry spice mix (A)
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp white peppercorns
- 3 cardamoms
- 5 cloves
The aromatics (B)
- 120g shallots
- 20g garlic
- 10g ginger
- 2 inches turmeric
- 1 bird's eye chili
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
The chicken broth (C)
- 1.5kg chicken
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 L (8.5 cups) water
- 1 cinnamon bark
- 1 star anise
- 2 lemongrass
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 5 tbsp coconut milk
- 1 tsp salt
Other condiments (D)
- 120g rice vermicelli
- 50g bean sprouts
- Fried shallots
- Sliced red chili
- Coriander leaves, chopped
- Scallion, chopped
- 1 hard-boiled egg
- Shredded chicken meat from the chicken in (C)
- Blend A into a fine powder.
- Blend B until it becomes a smooth paste. Miix A and B in a pan and saute until aromatic.
- Marinate the chicken thigh with salt for half a day. Pan-fry until golden brown.
- Put the chicken in a stockpot filled with water. Simmer for one hour with other ingredients in C.
- Remove the chicken. When the chicken is cold, shred the chicken meat into small pieces.
- Strain the chicken broth. Bring it to a boil. Add the sauteed spice paste and coconut milk.
- To serve, place the rice vermicelli in the bowl. Topped with the shredded chicken meat, bean sprouts, and hard-boiled egg. Add the fried shallots, chopped spring onions, coriander leaves, and sliced red chili. Ladle sufficient chicken broth into the bowl.
Recipe for Begedil
- Deep-fried 200g (7oz) of potato slices until golden brown. After it is cold, mash them like making mashed potatoes.
- Add 40g (1.5 oz) of minced meat (chicken or beef) to the mashed potatoes. Add a dash of white pepper, a large tablespoon of chopped coriander leaf, half teaspoon of salt, and one large tablespoon of finely diced onion.
- Add 1/4 beaten egg to the above to combine them into a sticky paste.
- Divide into six portions and form a ball shape.
- Deep-fry the begedils in hot oil until brown. Remove, drained, and serve.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 1532Total Fat: 88gSaturated Fat: 26gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 50gCholesterol: 521mgSodium: 3097mgCarbohydrates: 48gFiber: 5gSugar: 7gProtein: 135g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 7/23/2020
Tuesday 30th of August 2022
The soto ayam so nice my family old and young love them is also good to invitive friends to enjoy our one dish lunch
Sunday 19th of December 2021
Do you have recipe for a Nasi Bojari? Looking for a fantastic one. I like yr interpretation for Soto Ayam. I can imagine it tastes yummilicious !
Sunday 19th of December 2021
I will keep nasi bojari in mind. I do not have the recipe at this moment.
Saturday 6th of March 2021
Hello, I took notice in your video after you grinded the dry spices. You added something to the dry spice container from white bowl(-5:06). What was that you added? Because it was a different color from the dry ingredients that was grinded. Please advise Thank you
Sunday 7th of March 2021
I think you are referring to the coriander powder. I did not have coriander seeds, so I so the powder instead, and does not need to grind.
Thursday 30th of July 2020
Hi KP Kwan, Thank you for featuring Indonesian Soto ayam. I cannot say whether it is authentic or not, but it looks fine. The soto is either clear or has a little bit of coconut milk. Usually people do not add any spicy hot chilies in the soups or soto, so the young children can eat them. The spicy condiments are always there, so one can add to their personal dish how spicy one want their dish to be. It is kind of funny that I had never heard of nasi impit. I did a research online, and I found that people make lontong in a rice cooker by making nasi impit, if they cannot find banana leaves to make lontong or young coconuts fronts to make ketupat. Where I live I can purchase little or bigger packages of rice in plastic bags with perforations, so one can just boil them in lots of water, and get lontong or ketupat whatever you want to call them. Because the rice expands and because it does not have enough room it takes the form of the plastic to capacity and becomes a rice cake. About the begedil, in Indonesia they are called perkedel, or bregedel, or bergedel, originated from the Dutch word frikadel. They are made with unpeeled steamed or boiled potatoes, if you can get potatoes for mash potates, then peel them and mash them adding spices and sometimes cooked meat or fish. If the potatoes are 'young' or the wrong kind, the mashed potatoes will be too watery and the prekedels will burst open when fried and make a mess. The safe choice is to deep fry the peeled potatoes (sliced 1/2 inch or 1 to 1 1/2 cm) and deep fry them until cooked, but still soft. Then, after draining them mash with salt, pepper, usually also mixed with some sliced green onions. Or fancier, with a little nutmeg powder, butter, fried shallots, sometimes also mixed with sautéed ground beef. Then form them in flattened rounds forms, and dipping them into stirred whole eggs (no breading) and fry them in hot oil until the egg is done, takes about 1 minute. They cannot be made from potato chips, nor potato sticks. I am sorry the comment is so long. There are lots recipes if you search Perkedel online, good and less good ones.
Thursday 30th of July 2020
Hi Francine, Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge. I hope other readers will read this and get to understand more about this recipe. KP Kwan
Thursday 23rd of July 2020
Hi...It looks great but I will need to wait until I can go to a larger city as my small town does not have the same ingredients. Enjoy your emails.
Friday 24th of July 2020
Hi Robert, There is no hurry. Just bookmarked the recipe and I hope you will enjoy it later. KP Kwan