Spicy Chicken Soup

11 April 2020 By

Soto Ayam is a classic Spicy Chicken Soup, commonly found in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. ‘Soto’ means ‘soup’ and ‘Ayam’ means ‘chicken’. It’s typically served with cubed rice (nasi impit or lontong), chicken and bean sprouts.

You can find variations of Soto Ayam at food stalls in these countries. Some are yellowish in colour from turmeric powder and some are brownish from using coriander powder. Besides chicken and noodles, Soto Ayam is often served with hard-boiled eggs, slices of fried potatoes, coriander leaves and fried shallots. Cubes of Nasi Impit or Lontong, a traditional Malay compressed rice cake cooked in intricately woven palm leaf baskets and cut into cubes, are also added.

Ingredients − Serves 6 to 8

  • 1 chicken, halved
  • 2.5 litres water
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 5 cm galangal, pounded
  • 2 stalks lemon grass – white part only
  • ½ tsp star anise powder
  • ¾ tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 heaped tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • Salt and sugar to taste

Combined Whole Spices

Wrap spices in a piece of muslin and secure with a string. Lightly crush spice bag with a pestle, then prick with a skewer.

  • 12 cloves
  • 3 cm ginger, bruised
  • 3 cardamoms, lightly bruised
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns
  • ½ tbsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp fennel seed


  • 200 g yellow noodles, scalded
  • 300 g compressed rice, diced (Nasi Impit or Lontong)
  • 2 cups bean sprouts, trimmed and blanched
  • 50 g transparent noodles, blanched and deep fried
  • 2 stalks Chinese celery, chopped (optional)
  • 2 bean curd cakes, fried and sliced
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • 2 stalks coriander, leaves and stems chopped


  • 15 shallots, thinly sliced and fried crisp – or use store bought
  • 5 whole garlic cloves, thinly sliced and fried crisp – or use store bought

Chilli Sauce

  • 8-10 birds eye chillies and 2 green chillies, roughly blended together
  • 3 tbsp sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tsp roasted shrimp paste (Belacan)
  • A little water
  • Salt and sugar to taste

Meat Patties – optional

  • 300 g potatoes, boiled and mashed
  • 200 g minced beef, stir fried with a touch of oil for 10 minutes. Cool.
  • 5 stalks Chinese celery or coriander stalks, finely chopped
  • 4 shallots, thinly sliced, then fried crisp and pounded
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground white pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 whole eggs lightly beaten or use 3 egg yolks and whip the whites separately for coating the patties – refer to Step 4.
  • Plain flour
  • Oil for deep frying


  1. Blanch yellow noodles, transparent noodles and bean sprouts. Set aside.
  2. In a little wok, add 4 tbsp oil and fry the shallots until crisp. Keep aside for garnish.
  3. Do the same with the garlic, adding more oil if necessary. In the remaining oil sauté the galangal, lemon grass, star anise powder, nutmeg and black and white pepper for 1 minute.
  4. Combine this aromatic mixture in a large stockpot with the chicken, muslin spice bag and 2.5 litres of water and bring to the boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and sugar.
  5. Remove chicken from the broth, shred the meat and keep aside. Return the chicken bones to the broth, add a third of the fried shallots and simmer for another 30 minutes. Then strain off the soup ingredients.
  6. Combine all the ingredients for the chilli sauce in a small bowl.
  7. Divide yellow noodles, compressed rice cakes, blanched bean sprouts, transparent noodles, Chinese celery, fried bean curd, spring onions, shredded chicken and Meat Patties (optional) between individual bowls. Pour over the hot broth and garnish with the remaining fried shallots and garlic crisps. Serve with the Chilli Sauce.

TIP: I particularly enjoy eating this together with Mixed Vegetables Coconut Stew – Sayur Lodeh.

Method – Meat Patties

  1. In a mixing bowl, add potatoes and beef. Mix well with pepper, salt, fried shallots and then stir in beaten eggs.
  2. With wet hands shape mixture into patties 4-5 cm diameter and lightly roll in flour.
  3. Shallow fry patties for about 5 minutes or until cooked through.
  4. If you prefer to make the patties gluten free omit the flour and use 3 whole egg yolks at step 1. Whip the egg whiles until foamy then dip patties in this mixture a few at time and shallow fry immediately.
  5. You can keep the patties warm, on a lined baking tray in an oven set at 40˚C.