Sophia Johnson’s

Soto Ayam

Soto Ayam, photo taken by Sophia's mom

↑ Photo from my mom. She always sends a pic of her dinner to the family WhatsApp group chat. Not super relevant but I thought it was a fun tidbit to share.

I was feeling a bit sick this weekend so I made myself some Indonesian comfort food: soto. There’s a bunch of different variations but generally, any traditional broth-based soup served with shredded meat, bean sprouts, vermicelli, and rice/rice cakes can be called soto. Soto ayam, or chicken soto, is the version I grew up eating so that’s what I ended up cooking.

I cheated a bit because I have a ready-made paste that works as a broth base but the full recipe calls for the following:



  • 1 boneless, skinless, chicken breast


  • Bumbu Inti C (spice paste)
  • Alternatively: candlenut, 5 shallots, 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp grated/finely minced ginger
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 stalks lemongrass bruised and tied in a knot
  • Some turmeric
  • Optional: tbsp coriander seeds, 2 tsp cumin seeds, 6 makrut lime leaves


  • Vermicelli
  • Rice or rice cakes (called lontong if you have them)
  • 2 Eggs
  • Some lime juice
  • Chopped celery leaves (for garnish, you could also use basil, mint, cilantro, you name it)
  • Fried Shallots
  • Sambal (oelek is easiest to find in the States, but chilis, garlic, and salt are the basics so you could make your own)

Step 1

Place your chicken in a pot and cover with water. Boil with lemongrass, lime leaves, and salt. Simmer for about 45 minutes then take chicken, lime leaves, and lemongrass out of the pot. You can discard lemongrass and lime leaves, keep the chicken and shred it in a bowl.

Step 2

Meanwhile, put spices, garlic, shallots, and candlenut in a food processor and blend until it’s a paste. If you have Bumbu Inti you can just crush the spices or throw them in a spice grinder.

Step 3

Throw a couple of tablespoons in a pan and put your paste in to bring out those flavors a bit. Saute until aromatic (about 5 minutes).

Step 4

Add paste to your chicken stock (and also maybe some bouillon if you feel like it). Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.

Step 5

Cook your noodles and boil your eggs.

Step 6

Add lime and salt to your broth to taste.

Step 7

Get your noodles or rice (or both) in a bowl, place eggs and shredded chicken on top then ladle broth over your bowl. Sprinkle with celery leaves, fried shallots, and add lime or sambal if you want. I also like to crush krupuk (prawn crackers) on top. Mix your soup around so all those flavors get to know each other and dig in.

The steps in this recipe are mostly paraphrased from a New York Times article because I didn’t have that many exact measurements on hand. There’s a lot of room for adding your own touches to the soup so my only advice is have fun with it.