Soto Ayam or as it is more commonly known in The Netherlands, Saoto, is a Javanese dish. The surprising thing is that I have never actually managed to find it on the menu of an Indonesian restaurant. Fortunately for me (and you if you ever end up in Holland) every single Surinamese eatery has it on their menu.

Saoto is a chicken stock soup. That in itself is not terribly exciting of course, the secret lies in the garnishing that is added to the soup at serving time. That is what makes a good Saoto.


The Chicken Soup

Cut the chicken in four or five big chunks.
Chop up the onion and some garlic (amount of garlic really depends on your preference), and fry them in hot oil.
Add the chicken and all of the herbs and spices.
Add just enough water to cover all of the chicken and let it boil gently for about 3 hours on a small flame. This should result in a fragrant and delicious chicken stock. If you don’t have time to wait that long, a high pressure cooker can help out, but I don’t suggest it.
Since soup chicken (at least if you buy it on a market) is often much more fatty than the regular water enhanced stuff you get at your local supermarket, you may want to scoop away the excess fat floating on the broth.
After the soup is done remove the chicken breasts (we will use them for one of the garnishings).
Add chopped celery leaves to the broth.

The Business End (garnishing)

It is not necessary to serve all of these. If you prefer you may make a selection of the ones you prefer.
  • Boiled Rice – boil some rice, as you would normally do. I find that overboiling your rice actually works very well for this.
  • Mini Fries – Peel some potatoes, wash them and grate them with a coarse grater. We will now deep-fry them. You must however take great care to remove the excess water full of potato starch. If you omit this step you could incinerate your kitchen. Anyway the dissolved starch ruins the fat quite quickly.
    To remove the excess water you should put a towel inside a salad centrifuge (to prevent the potato gratings from flying out) and give it a good spin. Deep fry the gratings now and let them drain the fat on kitchen towels.
    In Holland you can actually purchase these ready-made. I do not know about other countries. If you can actually find them, make sure to buy the unsalted kind.
  • Dry baked onions – I would suggest buying this off the shelf. I know no easy way to make them yourself.
  • Deep fried rice noodles (Mihoen)– Deep fry the noodles bit by bit in hot oil for a few seconds. Let them drain on some kitchen towels. The draining doesn’t make it healthy!
  • Boiled rice noodles (Mihoen)– If you prefer to live to a ripe old age…
  • Fried diced chicken – Remove the bones, skin and fat from the breasts you removed from the broth. Dice the meat and fry it. Warning: because the chicken has soaked up a lot of water while cooking it will probably splatter quite a bit!
  • Pepper (imperative) – pepper is a generic name given to any kind of palate-numbing pastes available in the Indonesian kitchen. The following is a recipe I particularly enjoy. (You may of course use a different kind of oriental hot sauce e.g. Sambal)
  • Taugeh (mung bean) sprouts or Soybean sprouts – boil for a minute and drain.
  • Hard-boiled egg – pretty self explanatory. I prefer to boil a few and then let them steep in the broth for a while prior to serving. The idea is to serve the egg in its entirety.


Pour the stock in a bowl and garnish with any or all of the side dishes. If required flavour with some soy sauce and extra pepper.


Thanks go to sneff for his added input on this recipe. We have decided to node this under Soto Ayam as opposed to the original Soto Ajam due to the fact that according to gn0sis Ayam is the accepted Indonesian spelling.

Update: I know that some oriental spices and herbs are occasionally hard to find in the US. I found the following site while researching this writeup: The site is a bit clumsy but they stock a lot of the Conimex brand oriental seasonings (and other Holland/Indonesia related stuff).

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