Living on an island nation means if you are travelling it always to the other countries and having stayed in such a country for almost a decade one has immense opportunities to explore the cultures of all the neighbouring nations. One such memorable journey was through the beautiful Jogjakarta on Indonesia’s Java island. The ancient temples of Borobudur – a UNESCO World Heritage Site had brought us to these serene and idyllic cultural hub of Indonesia.
Travelling through the regions with predominately non-vegetarian cuisines often becomes challenging for the vegetarian family of ours ad such remote regions ante-up the challenge. But that has never deterred us to travel through and explore the small nations and glorious cultures of the far-east. While in Borobudur we decided to stay at Manohara the ideally located hotel that offers a very close proximity to these ancient Buddhist temples and mesmerising views of the mountains and paddy fields. The daily breakfast spread at Mahohara included Soto and since the broth was vegetarian we could actually have bowls of Soto with the filling options that our vegetarian palate permitted. Soto was so popular across the island that we came across a Soto joint in every food court or street corner. It is a healthy and cheap food for the people here. Infact out driver and guide through our travel across Jogjakarta highly recommended a bowl of Soto every morning.
Soto is the broth soup from Indonesia. The broth made with chicken stock is flavoured using fresh herbs, candle nuts and some spices. The fragrant and flavoursome broth is poured over the bowl of rice, vermicelli noodles, eggs, shredded chicken, bean sprouts etc, topped with chilli-ginger paste and garnished with spring onions, fried onions. Each region of Indonesia has its own version of Soto , thus it is known by many different names. Such high is the popularity of this street food that it is sometimes known as the national dish of Indonesia. Outside Indonesia, Soto Ayam (Soto Chicken) is the most popular version of this comforting soup. I have tried to create a meat less version of this dish. Most of the ingredients are easily available in urban markets, if you find it difficult to source galangal and kaffir lime try substituting it with ginger and lime zest. The idea is to give aroma and asian flavours to the broth and that could be done with any combinations. Vegetarians can replace eggs with boiled potatoes.
Soto – the broth soup of Indonesia
Serves – 4
- 7 cups Vegetable stock
6 stalks lemon grass, bruised
8-10 Kaffir Lime leaves
2 inch piece of fresh turmeric or 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder
8 shallots or sambar onions
16 cloves garlic
1 inch galangal
1 inch ginger
3 candlenuts (optional)
1/2 cup coconut milk (if not using candlenuts)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon white pepper
3-4 red chillies (increase or decrease as suited)
2 tablespoon soyasauce
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt to taste
4 boiled eggs
100 grams glass noodles or vermicelli noodles, cooked as per manufacutres instructions
100 Grams Bean Sprouts
1 small bowl cooked rice( sticky or small-grained)
Spring onions, chopped (to garnish)
Fried onions (to garnish)
Coriander, chopped (to garnish)
- Boil together vegetable stock, fresh turmeric, lemon grass stalks, kaffir lime leaves, teared before adding to the stock. Allow it to boil gently for 10 minutes until the herbs have infused the stock well.
If it is difficult to find candlenuts, add 1/2 cup of coconut milk to the simmering stock.
Dry roast the coriander, cumin and fennel seeds until fragrant.
The next step is to prepare the spice paste. In a mixer add the shallots, 8 cloves of garlic, galangal, ginger, roasted coriander, cumin and fennel seeds, white pepper, candle nuts (if using). Grind all of these to a smooth paste.
You may use some water or vegetable stock to aid grinding of the paste.
In a heavy bottom pan add oil and fry the paste until it turns light brown and becomes fragrant.
Add the vegetable stock to the fried paste. Cook till it comes to a boil. Add salt to taste and turn of the flame. The broth for Soto is ready.
A chilli sauce that accompanies the Soto is to be prepared by grinding to a smooth paste the chillies, garlic, soya sauce, sugar and salt.
The bean sprouts need to be immersed in hot water for 1 minute and removed immediately.
Cut the boiled eggs in to half.
To serve the Soto, in a large soup bowl place 2 tablespoons of rice, some noodles, 1boiled egg, bean sprouts and pour the hot Soto broth on it.
Add a teaspoon of prepared chilli-sauce.
Garnish with spring onions, fried onions and coriander.
From me to you
You may increase or decrease the amount of lemon grass stalks and Kaffir lime leaves. The chillies also can be adjusted according to personal preference. Vegetable stock can be replaced by chicken stalk and shredded chicken can also be added to the soup. The amount of broth in each serving would also depend on personal choice. Since I like more broth the picture here reflects my preference.