Indonesian Chicken Soup

Indonesian Chicken Soup
Ⓒ Provided by Delish

By Francesca Zani, Delish

I have a deep love of aromatic, brothy soups with noodles. When I learned about Indonesian chicken soup, otherwise known as soto ayam, I knew I had to try it out. This soup can be identified by different names in various parts of Indonesia. There are also Chinese roots to the soup, and it’s common to see it linked to Malaysian cuisine.

Different ways to prepare the soup:

- The soup base often consists of a paste made with fresh turmeric, lemongrass, shallots, ginger, galangal (similar to ginger but with a sweeter flavor), garlic, and candlenuts. You might find that water and bone-in chicken breast or thighs are cooked to create the broth with the addition of the paste (as I did). Or the broth is made separately and added to the paste later.

- Sometimes you’ll see galangal, ginger, and lemongrass pounded (not ground) and added to the base of the soup. They’re removed after the soup is cooked.

- Chicken is often poached in the broth, removed, and pan-seared or fried for another layer of crispy texture and flavor.

How to fry your own shallots

If you can’t easily access the wonderful fried shallots at your local specialty market, you can make them! All you need is hot oil, thinly sliced shallots, and cornstarch. Coat the shallots in a thin layer of cornstarch and fry until golden brown and crispy.

Various ingredients you can use to make the soup:

- Coconut milk: Some recipes call for it and others don’t. Up to your discretion.

- Galagal: If you can’t find it, using just ginger is fine.

- Turmeric: I used fresh, which is preferred over the dried version. But if you can only find dried turmeric, that will work too! I added 1/4 cup fresh chopped, so for dried turmeric, use 2 tablespoons.

- Daun salam: If you can source these, then great; otherwise, you can use Indian curry leaves as a substitute.

- Candlenuts: Typically, candlenuts are used but are VERY hard to find, and they're toxic if eaten raw. In this recipe, macadamia nuts are added instead.

- Makrut lime leaves: These are essential in soto ayam, but if you cannot source them, use lime zest.

Ingredients to add when serving:

You can serve the soup with rice, rice noodles, boiled potatoes, lime wedges, fresh tomatoes, cabbage, bean sprouts, boiled eggs, fried shallots, sambal, celery leaves, and scallions. Pick your favorites and make this soup your own!

Yields: 4 - 6

Prep Time: 20 mins

Total Time: 1 hr 45 mins

More Recipe: Smoky Potato and Kale Soup Recipe


  • 1 c. chopped shallots (from about 3 medium)
  • 1/4 c. peeled coarsely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/4 c. peeled coarsely chopped fresh turmeric
  • 12 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 8 macadamia nuts
  • 1/2 c. refined coconut oil or vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, halved and bruised
  • 8 makrut lime leaves
  • 1 tbsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. light brown sugar or coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground white pepper
  • 1 (4-lb.) whole chicken, cut into pieces, skin removed
  • 16 oz. dry vermicelli noodles
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs, halved
  • 1 tomato, quartered
  • 1 lime, quartered
  • 1/4 c. fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 c. fried shallots
  • 1/4 c. sliced scallions


Step 1

In a small food processor, purée shallots, ginger, turmeric, garlic, nuts, and 1/3 cup water until smooth.

Step 2

In a large pot over medium-high heat, heat 1/4 cup oil. Cook paste, stirring frequently and reducing heat if paste sticks, until light golden in color and some liquid has evaporated, 8 to 10 minutes.

Step 3

Add lemongrass, makrut leaves, salt, brown sugar, coriander, cumin, and pepper and stir to combine. Add chicken and 9 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until flavors have melded and chicken is cooked through, about 1 hour.

Step 4

Meanwhile, in another large pot, cook noodles according to package directions.

Step 5

Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Discard makrut leaves and lemongrass. Shred chicken meat into large pieces.

Step 6

In a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat, heat remaining 1/4 cup oil. Cook chicken, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Step 7

Divide noodles among bowls. Pour broth over. Top with chicken, eggs, tomato, lime, cilantro, fried shallots, and scallions.

More Recipe: Tea Eggs with Asian Noodles Recipe

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Food Magazine: Indonesian Chicken Soup
Indonesian Chicken Soup
This special soup is loaded with chicken, fresh ginger, garlic, lemongrass, and turmeric. You'll adore it.
Food Magazine
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