This is my version of Soto Ayam, the aromatic chicken and rice noodle soup popular in Indonesia. The base for this satisfying soup in the broth, and making your broth from scratch will yield the most delicious and nutritious soup. If you’re new to broth making, take the plunge – it really is a skill worth having. Truth be told, making broth doesn’t really require much in the way of technique, just a little advanced planning and a willingness to let it simmer on a back burner all day.
Bone broths are super nourishing, full of minerals and other beneficial compounds (like glucosamine and chondroitin) that leak from the bones as they break down. Boxed and canned broths are no substitution for a homemade bone broth nutritionally speaking, but of course you can use them in a pinch – I relied on them for years. These days I make it a habit to make a batch of broth every 2 or 3 weeks, freezing a few quarts for later use. After all, as Escoffier said, “Stock is everything in cooking. Without it, nothing can be done.”
For the Indonesian Chicken Noodle Soup (Soto Ayam):
*makes 2 very large bowls – a complete dinner for 2*
2 eggs, hard boiled
½ a package rice vermicelli noodles
1 Tbsp. rice flour
3 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 medium shallot, peeled and thinly sliced
6 C. chicken broth (recipe below)
2 tsp. fresh turmeric, grated, OR 1 tsp. dried turmeric
fish sauce and/or sea salt, to taste
2 C. cabbage, chopped into 1 ½” pieces
1 generous C. cooked chicken, large dice
sliced chilies or chili sauce
In preparation, boil the eggs, soften the noodles, and fry the shallots. For hard-boiled eggs, I recommend placing the eggs into cold water, bringing to a boil, immediately turning off the heat, and allowing to sit for 7 minutes. Then transfer the eggs to a bowl of cold water to cool until ready to peel. If you think of it, save the boiling water and place the rice noodles in it to soften. Be sure they are submerged in the hot water, adding a little more hot tap water if necessary. They should be fine just sitting in the hot water until ready to use.
For the shallots, heat a small saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the coconut oil and allow to get hot, while tossing the sliced shallots with the rice flour to coat. Then fry the shallots in the oil, watching them carefully, until medium golden brown on both sides. Sprinkle generously with salt and transfer to a paper towel to cool.
Place the broth in a medium pot over high heat along with the turmeric and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the cabbage and simmer for about 5 minutes to soften. Add the chicken chunks to warm through. Taste the broth and add fish sauce and/or salt until desired saltiness is achieved.
Divide the softened noodles between two large bowls and then scoop in the hot broth with a ladle or measuring cup. Top the soup with bean sprouts, cilantro, halved hard-boiled eggs, crispy shallots, chilies or chili sauce, and lemon slices for squeezing.
For the Asian-Spiced Chicken Broth:
*Makes 4 Quarts*
1 whole pastured chicken, broken down into 5 pieces (2 legs, 2 breasts, 1 back) and rinsed well under cold running water*
enough tap water to just cover
4 Qts. (16 C.) filtered water
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 onion, quartered
4 diagonal slices ginger
2 tsp. coriander seed
2 whole star anise
*You can either use the chicken pieces raw with the meat (then cool and reserve the cooked meat for later) OR use them as dinner first. I grilled our chicken pieces the night before and we ate the legs for dinner, setting aside the bones for the broth. We separated the breast meat from the bones, adding those bones to the broth along with the back and setting the meat aside for use in the soup. Just keep in mind that if you’re making the broth with the meat on the bones, you’ll need a very large pot in order to hold the whole chicken plus 4 quarts of water. That just might make your decision for you.
To start the broth, cover the bones (or meat and bones) with tap water and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5-10 minutes and remove from the heat. Transfer the chicken to a colander and rinse with cold water. Wash or wipe out the pot thoroughly to remove all the gunk from the sides. This first step insures you will have a nice, clear broth.
Return the chicken to the pot and cover with 4 quarts filtered water. Add the vinegar and the additional aromatic ingredients (of my choosing or yours), and bring to a simmer, covered.
Find a comfortable temperature for the broth where it can remain at a simmer with the lid on without bubbling over. Continue to cook for 8 – 12 hours, checking on it occasionally to be sure it continues to bubble. After 8+ hours, uncover and allow to cool slightly before removing the meat and bones and setting aside the meat to cool if you included it. Strain the broth into another pot or a large bowl to remove the onion and spices, Season with a little sea salt (I use just 1 tsp.), keeping in mind it can be fully seasoned later when using in recipes.
Store the broth in glass quart containers or in plastic containers once cooled.