There are two Indonesian soups that I absolutely adore. The first is a Sop Buntot (they made a terrific one at the Hotel Intercontinental Borobudur Hotel where I lived for roughly 3-4 years) which is an oxtail soup with tremendous flavor from slow cooked oxtails and spices including galangal. If allowed to cool, it would probably solidifyâ€¦thatâ€™s how much gelatin and fat it had in it! The second soup, Soto Ayam, is a chicken and sotanghon soup that is so distinctly different from our own versions. Done right, the Soto Ayam is incredibly satisfying and incredibly tasty. And better yet, the chili in the form of sambal is added to each dinerâ€™s soup bowl individually, so you can temper or strengthen the spiciness as you wish. Here is a simple recipe for Soto Ayamâ€¦
In a medium to large sized pot, boil some water with a couple of stalks of lemon grass, a few kaffir (or makrut) lime leaves, and place several chicken breasts in it to cook. When done, flake the breasts and remove and bones and cartilage and set this aside. Alternatively, you can boil a whole chicken; however, only the white meat is generally used for this recipe. Next, make a paste by mashing together garlic, galangal or yellow ginger, onions, coriander seeds, salt pepper and candle nuts (a slightly bitter nut used to thicken the soup, if you canâ€™t find them use mashed macadamias instead, though these are sweeter) and add this to the boiling broth. Add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, a little bit of white sugar and 1 chicken cube broth if your broth needs strengthening. Cook this down till a nice flavorful soup, say 15+ minutes. Strain out the solids.
Meanwhile, prepare a platter with the ingredients for the soup. Add some cooked and cooled sotanghon noodles (mung bean thread noodles), several quartered boiled eggs, blanched bean sprouts, some greens such as coriander and the shredded chicken. To serve, take some of all of the ingredients and place it in a big bowl. Add some of the yellow broth and season with both sambal and the kecap manis which is essentially a sweetened soy sauce. Many homes in Indonesia would serve this dish with small deep fried potato patties, a great match that I only bother to do once or twice a year. I used to eat this with rice as well. And lots of local pickles simply called acar (pronounced achar, yes, hence our acharra). We just had this for dinner an hour ago. I am so full I could fall fast asleep in 2 minutes flatâ€¦