Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Indonesian Chicken Soup- Soto Ayam

 I love chicken soups from around the world.  I need to try more, but one favorite is Portuguese Canja. My Thai friend also made some really good soups for me when she lived here.  This soup, Soto Ayam, is simmered with kaffir lime leaves, fresh lemongrass, ginger and other herbs.  The flavor of this soup is awesome.  You can enhance it with garnishes like fried shallots, hard-boiled eggs, chopped cilantro, mint, and basil, and Sriracha or other hot pepper sauce.

Indonesian Chicken Soup- Soto Ayam
adapted from NY Times

1 free-range chicken, about 3 pounds, quartered (or buy pre-cut chicken pieces)
2 stalks fresh lemon grass, bruised with the handle of a heavy knife and tied in a knot
6 kaffir lime leaves, fresh, frozen or dried (optional)
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
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh turmeric, or 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric**
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
3 tablespoons oil
4 ounces glass noodles or thin dried rice noodles, called vermicelli, bihun or bun (Filipino rice pancit noodles work well)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped celery leaves, mint, Thai (or regular) basil or cilantro leaves
2 shallots, thinly sliced and fried in vegetable oil until brown (optional)
Quartered limes
chili paste (such as sambal) for serving (or Sriracha)
Cooked white rice (optional)
Hard-boiled eggs, sliced, for serving

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. (My paste was always kind of chunky, but it was ok- you cook it so it does break down a little.)

3.  Heat 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.  Add cooked spice paste and chicken meat to stock. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.

4.  Cook noodles according to package directions. Turn off heat under soup and stir in lime juice. Taste for salt.

5.  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.
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.
*I tried this both with noodles and jasmine rice, and found the rice easier to eat.  It was very tasty both ways.  
**I found the turmeric at my local international foods store.  It was SUPER cheap- a bag for only 1 Euro.  I also found the rice noodles there.  Some may also have the Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass.
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