Asian · Cooking with Herbs · Indonesian · Main Course · Noodles · Poultry · Savoury · Soup · South East Asian · Spicy · Weekend Cooking

Soto Ayam – the spicy chicken broth that saved my weekend!

Last Friday evening I left work for home earlier than normal as I did not feel well at all.  I felt nauseous and sweaty and could actually hear my stomach churning.

Oh no… not now, I whispered. 

There were a million and one stars spinning in my head.  I felt really lousy and lightheaded while the abdominal cramps were acting up. I was definitely not prepared for all that!

Nine Times and a Centenary!

When I got home, I was so relieved because I knew where to head for instantly nine times (!) in less than 5 hours… 

It was one of my worst bouts of diarrhoea in a long time 😦

I felt extremely weak and dehydrated from losing so much fluid. I downed 3 bottles (on separate intervals) of the po chai pills (equivalent to the better-known-to-Malaysians chi kit teck aun pills) with plenty of lukewarm water.  My stomach churned more aggressively.  It must be the pills battling with the bacteria.  I could not do anything else that evening than lay on the sofa with 2 blankets over me, like a 100-year old woman.

Speaking of 100-year old, that’s the main reason I wanted to get well speedily before the end of the week. My husband and I were invited for the 100th birthday anniversary of a friend’s Father In-law.  Now, that’s a special event that I would not miss.  Anyway, how many of us have actually seen or crossed paths with a century old human being in the flesh? That was a chance in a lifetime, really! I was looking forward to it.

Oh by the way, I did not live on the po chai pills and lukewarm water only.  I had one banana, a few dry crackers, plain yoghurt and lots of mint tea – worked a charm for me!

Hungry Saturday

I felt a lot better the next morning, sipping my hot mint tea and some crackers for breakfast.

Usually, I do not spend a lot of time in the kitchen on Saturdays, but I was yearning for Soto Ayam – an Indonesian spicy (yellow) chicken soup, which I made from scratch for our Saturday lunch.

The key and main ingredient of this chicken soup is turmeric, which turned the broth to a blazing saffron orangey-yellowy colour

1. Soto Ayam_turmeric1a. Soto Ayam_ yellow chix broth

If I had to describe Soto Ayam, I would say – simply – that the dish is a distant cousin of the Sarawak laksa 😀

Here’s a picture collage of my homemade Sarawak laksa I made not so long ago (yes, I made my own paste!). Instead of the conventional omelette, I used hardboiled eggs, and believe you me; it’s a lot healthier if you made your own paste 😉

2. Soto Ayam vs Sarawak Laksa

Fresh is THE word… not Grease!

After the horrendous bout of diarrhoea on Friday, I wanted my Saturday free from pre-packed and greasy foods.  Soto Ayam was the perfect choice as a tummy soother 😀

As this was an impromptu dish, I had to make do with what I could rummage in my kitchen cupboards, refrigerator and freezer. I had most of the ingredients to incorporate the mildly spiced yet tasty chicken broth.

Perhaps the only item I lacked was shallots.  The recipe which I got from an Indonesian friend requires plenty of shallots. I had only two shallots left and luckily they were big ones. On the other hand, I had a few onions to spare.  I was surprised with the alternative result.  It was an absolute winner!

So folks, think out of the box. You’ll be amazed by being unconventional 😉


(Serves 4-5)

1 packet rice vermicelli

For the broth –

Chicken (I used one whole frozen chicken, thawed overnight. Personally, 4 chicken legs would be better)
Ginger slices
Kaffir lime leaves (plenty)
Lemon grass (I used 3 because I had only 3 left in the fridge. 4 or 5 should be great)
Enough water to cover the chicken

For the paste –

1 onion
2 large shallots
1 knob garlic
4 cm piece ginger
5 cm piece turmeric (I used 3 x 5cm)
5 cm piece galangal (I used 3 x 5cm)
8 candlenuts
4 Thai chillies
Olive Oil

For the garnish ( I used my imagination) –

Cucumber strips
Green beans – cooked any way you like. I stir fried mine with garlic, soy sauce and chilli flakes
Hardboiled eggs
Lemon wedge
Chicken shreds (from the boiled whole chicken)
Fish balls (optional)
Prawns (optional)
Crispy fried shallots (unfortunately this was not in the picture L )
Prawn crackers (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method –

1)      Boil the chicken in a deep soup pot. I discarded the first round of boiled broth as there were too much scum floating on the surface of the pot. I then changed the water several times until the water was clearer. Boil the chicken a second time over medium heat. Throw in fresh ginger slices and torn kaffir lime leaves

2)      Meanwhile blend all the wet ingredients and candlenuts to form a paste

3)      Sauté the paste together with the slightly bruised lemon grass until fragrant and transfer the paste to the chicken broth. Season with salt (and/ or chicken stock cube) and pepper

4)      Stir the broth to combine the paste into the liquid and continue to boil the chicken soup covered

5)      When the chicken is tender and starts to fall apart, remove from the broth and start shredding the meat off the bones

6)      Boil some water and pour onto the rice vermicelli. Let stand until the rice noodles become limp but not lumpy.  Drain under cold running water. Set aside.

7)      Prepare the garnish of your choice 😀

8)      That’s IT!

3. Soto Ayam_whole chix4. Soto Ayam_major ingredients

4a. Soto Ayam_major ingredients blended4c. Soto Ayam_major ingredients sauteed

5. Soto Ayam_mixed5b. Soto Ayam_mixed2

6. Soto Ayam_shredded chix7. Soto Ayam_garnish

8a. Soto Ayam_without lemon8. Soto Ayam_with lemonIt was a simple dish, but one that fought the battle of the runs.  The thrill of Victory!! Yay! 😀

Oh yes, my husband and I made it to the 100th birthday of opa (grandpa) Harry as he is fondly called by his circle of friends on Sunday.  We had great moments meeting up friends whom we have not met in years.

A Blessed Centenary to you, opa Harry! You looked the same one year ago, 10 years ago, 15 years ago.  I wonder what his secret ingredient to a youthful look is…. 

9. Opa Harry

10. Opa Harry

11. Cake111a. Cake2

And by the way, the centenary birthday cake was specially made and decorated by my friend.  Good job, F!

I am linking this post to the following events –

Weekend Cooking hosted by Beth Fish Reads – Thinking, Reading, Photographing

Weekend Cooking

Cooking With Herbs Challenge for February 2014 hosted by Karen Burns-Booth of  Lavender and Lovage


Enjoy the rest of the week.


16 thoughts on “Soto Ayam – the spicy chicken broth that saved my weekend!

  1. That looks like a very yummy soto ayam! I might give it a try someday. 🙂 Wow… the cake’s decoration looks really good!

  2. Yes, yummy and lots of medicinal goodness, esp from the turmeric. You should try make this dish, Ita😉

    The cake was an eye-catcher that day. Absolutely gorgeous, yes!

  3. Thanks. The broth did wonders to my stomach. It was not overly spicy. Just nice and very tasty😄. And of course the 100th birthday was an extraordinary special one… Yes, wow!

  4. Turmeric is so restorative isn’t it? and now I’ve found a place where I can get the fresh stuff. Thanks for a lovely recipe

  5. Hi, thanks for dropping by 🙂

    I noticed you’re residing in NL. Lucky you, because most of the Asian stores in BE import the Asian goodies via NL..

    You should try making this soto ayam. It’s really quite light (with no coconut milk..) and great during winter season

  6. Sorry to hear you had been sick. Diarrhea’s the worst. Hope it was just that day. It has been a bad winter for us this year…colds galore. So sick of being sick, lol.

    Take care,

  7. Hi Chris,

    Long time no “see” 😄 . Good to read you again.

    It WAS a bad stomach flu I’ve had in years. Luckily it was just for that evening. I was determined to get it over with and I did! The chix broth really helped a lot 😜

    Btw, we did not have any winter at all. Our winter was so mild, almost spring-like. Love it! Sorry that you guys had experienced one of the worst winters. Hope it’s over and that you’re enjoying spring 😉


  8. It seemed the buikgriep virus was doing it’s rounds in Jan and Feb. Our whole family was down with stomach flu for the 2 weeks b4 I popped. I was feeling so rotten then, downed a few bottles of pot chai pills also…

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