Soto Ayam

E_p12_recipeBack before the Second World War, when Indonesia was called the Dutch East Indies and moving abroad was still the decision of a lifetime, my great grandmother put on her ‘naughty shoes,’ as we say in Dutch, and went. She bravely moved around the world by herself, fell in love with the country and her future husband, had three children and ran a hotel, right up until the war changed everything. So even though you might not be able to tell from looking at me, I have deeply rooted family history in Indonesia. Roots that also carry a desire for international adventure, a profound love for hospitality and, of course, food. Indonesia has some of the best in the world. You have not lived until you’ve had goat satay, grilled over hot coals, with spicy peanut sauce. Due to goat not being a particularly popular ingredient in B.C. cooking, I give you Indonesian chicken soup for the soul.

Ingredients (serves 6)

5 chicken thighs, bone in

2 kaffir lime leaves

1 onion

3 cloves of garlic

a 4 cm piece of fresh ginger, grated

lemongrass, about 15 cm

1 tbs ground coriander seeds

1 tbs ground cumin

1 tbs turmeric


Bean sprouts

Spring onion

Fried onion (store bought or homemade)

Hard boiled eggs




1. Fill a large soup pot with cold water. Add the chicken: bone, skin, and all. Bring to a boil, turn down to simmer. Bruise the lemongrass with the back of your knife and add to the pot. Add lime leaves. Leave to simmer for about 30 minutes, without stirring. Skim off any impurities.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the spice paste by chopping onion and garlic till very small. Add grated ginger, coriander and cumin. Stir to form a paste, use a mortar if you have one. In a small pan, heat some vegetable oil and fry your spice paste for about 5 minutes on medium heat. You want to start smelling the spices, but be careful not to burn them.

3. Fish the chicken thighs out of the broth. Discard the skin. Shred the chicken and set aside. Put the bones back into the pot. Add your fried spice paste and salt to taste, or if you prefer, a bouillon cube. Let simmer for another 30 minutes or longer if you have the time.

4. Prepare the garnishes. This soup is served with an array of garnishes, added to the bowl before adding your broth. Of course you can switch it up, but traditionally a Soto Ayam is served with bean sprouts (washed), spring onions (sliced), cooked rice (or glass noodles), hard boiled eggs, lime wedges, and fried onions (chopped small and shallow fried till brown). And of course a good handful of the shredded chicken you have taken off the bones in step 3.

5. Strain the broth. Taste and season to taste. You can either prepare your bowls in the kitchen to serve or let your diners make their own at the table before adding the broth. Selamat Makan!