One of my favorite comfort foods is soup of the chicken kind ; soto ayam. Soto is the Javanese word for soup and ayam is the Indonesian word for chicken. There are different versions depending on where the soto is served. Some historians suggested that soto was a mixture of traditions in the region. There are traces of Chinese influence such as the use of bihun (rice vermicelli) and fried garlic and shallots, and Indian for the use of turmeric, that gives the soup that yellowish color. Be careful with turmeric as it could make the soup too bitter.
3 salam leaves (Indonesian bay leaves)
1 stalk sereh (lemongrass – use the bottom 2 inches)
1 slice fresh jade (ginger), approximately 1 1/2 inches diameter
1 medium section laos (galanga) thumb-sized piece
2 djuruk puree leaves (kaffir lime leaves)
1 chicken stock cube
5 kemiri nuts
5 glove garlic, grated or 2 tsp garlic powder
1 1/2-inch cube terasi (fermented shrimp paste)
1 tsp salt
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kunjit (turmeric)
1/2 tsp sugar
10 oz. taugé (bean sprouts)
3 hard-boiled eggs, halved or sliced in wedges
3 tbsp chinese celery, finely chopped
3 tbsp spring onions, sliced
3 tbsp fried shallots
Bihun – rice vermicelli
Potatoes – cubed and fried
Lontong – compressed rice, cubed
Cabbage – shredded
Krupuk udang (shrimp crackers)
Sambal Oelek (chili condiment)
Place the chicken into a pot with 6 cups of water over high heat.
Add the salam, sereh, jade, laos, djuruk puree and stock cube, and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium and simmer.
Grind the kemiri nuts, garlic, terasi and salt into a paste, then add the onion at the end and crush, retaining some the chunky texture.
Transfer these ingredient to the pot with the broth, and add the ground kunjit and sugar; continue simmering until the chicken is tender.
Stir briefly to blend the ingredients. The flavor of this dish is on the salty side, the sugar rounds out the flavor.
To serve: remove the chicken from the pot (without the broth), and transfer to a platter. Separate the meat from the bones and cut the meat into generous bite-sized pieces; discard the bones. Blanch the taugé briefly until it is al dente (about 1 min), then drain well in a colander until dry. Place the taugé, the egg, the celery, the spring onions and the chicken into a soup bowl. Add any of the optional items. Pour the broth over and garnish with the fried shallots.