Category Archives: Indonesia

Soto Ayam

This weekend I finally had an opportunity to make soto ayam, a recipe shared from my friend Hans who lived in Indonesia for a number of years.  Soto ayam is a chicken coconut curry soup with lots of ginger and its relative galangal, also an aromatic tuber.

soto ayam without toppings

The soup itself is flavorful, but you can see from this picture that it doesn’t look very exciting, even with the chicken chunks and rice at the bottom of the bowl.  What makes this dish a fun party food (and a fresh and hearty meal) is all the toppings that go with it!

soto ayam

Isn’t that better?  This recipe is included in our Flavors of the Triangle cookbook (now on sale at the Ten Thousand Villages store in Cameron Village, Raleigh).

Soto Ayam
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground cumin
4 shallots (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (ground or finely chopped)
1 Tbsp. turmeric powder
2-inch piece galangal (peeled, ground)
2-inch piece ginger (peeled, ground)
Vegetable oil
2 glasses water
1 can (14 oz.) chicken broth
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
1 stalk of lemon grass (cut into 3 strips)
Breast meat from 1 chicken (cubed, about 1.5-2 lbs.)
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

Warm the spices (coriander through ginger) in a large stock pot, then add a bit of oil to cook lightly, until it turns slightly brown and fragrant. Add water, chicken broth, coconut milk, and lemon grass strips. When the broth is boiling, add the chicken, then cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Add salt to taste, and season with fresh lime juice.

Serve (with sambal – hot chili paste) over cooked rice, then let your guests add:

2 c. chopped, blanched green cabbage
2 eggs, cut into wedges
2 c. bean sprouts
3 Tbsp. chopped celery leaves
1 small package soaked glass noodles
Crushed potato chips
2 limes, cut into wedges

I’d estimate that this amount of soup serves about 8 people.


Beef Rendang – Indonesian Coconut Curry

This dish was inspired by a recipe that I saved out of the book “The Sharper your Knife, the Less you Cry” –  memoirs from a woman who moves to Paris to attend Le Cordon Bleu. Throughout the book she includes random recipes from class, or from her classmates and other people she hangs out with in Paris. This recipe was titled Nasi Tumpeng Kuning, Beef Rendang – described as Javanese-style yellow rice with slow-cooked beef. Of course I tweaked it a bit to match my own tastes and my available pantry ingredients.

This was the curry paste the dish started with:
1/2 Tbsp. turmeric
2 1/2 tsp. galangal powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbsp. Sriracha chili sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. lemon juice

One thing I realized again (similar to when I was making Thai curries) is I need a bigger mortar and pestle to make these curry pastes!

I’m sure it’s better if you start from fresh galangal root (a few tablespoons), but I had the powder so I used it instead. Galangal is a tuber related to ginger root, with a similar but distinct flavor. If you don’t like things very spicy, you may to reduce the amount of Sriracha – at the 2 Tbsp. level it’s got a pretty good kick to it, though I noticed that diminished after re-heating.

The slow-cooked beef curry is assembled by mixing together the curry paste with these other ingredients:
1 Tbsp. lime zest
1 Tbsp. lemongrass paste (you can buy it in the herb section of most grocery stores)
2 cans coconut milk, plus 1/2 can water to rinse out cans
4 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 lbs. beef roast, cubed

This is a picture of what the coconut curry looked like when first assembled, before adding beef. Bring this to almost a boil, then add the beef cubes and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer uncovered for about 2 hours, the beef will be fall-apart tender at that point. The recommended cut was beef round tip roast, but I found another beef roast that worked fine. Even more tough cuts of meat respond well to this type of slow cooking.

This is then served with a coconut rice made as follows:
2 c. rice
1 can coconut milk, plus 1 can water
Turmeric or saffron to make the rice yellow, if desired
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 bay leaves

You can use all coconut milk to cook the rice, but that’s too rich for me (and more expensive!) – I prefer to water it down half and half with water. Mix ingredients and simmer, covered until rice is tender and has absorbed the liquid.  Serve rice with curry, garnish the dish with Thai basil and/or fresh cilantro.

Recommended adjustments: Though I find the final dish to be delicious – it’s pretty strong on the turmeric flavor, with that slightly bitter aftertaste turmeric sometimes has. If I make this again (and I think I will!), I’ll try a trick that an Indian friend taught me, which is to always cook turmeric in oil before using it in a dish – that helps reduce the aftertaste. I will make the curry paste by grinding together everything except the turmeric; then briefly saute the turmeric, shallots and onion in the same pot before assembling the remaining curry ingredients to slow-cook.  Also, this should work well cooked in a slow-cooker for 6-8 hours during the day, which might fit my schedule better than a 2 hour cooking time.