soto ayam – indonesian chicken noodle soup

Soto ayam is chicken noodle soup – Indonesian style. Lemongrass. Lime leaves. Ginger. Garlic. Spices. This is not your mom’s chicken noodle soup.

Crispy fried chicken. Fried shallots. Cilantro. Rice noodles. And a medium boiled egg. This is Indonesia’s answer to ramen.

I love noodles. And I have a thing for noodle soups. Look around glebe kitchen. Ramen. Pho. Laksa. Classic chicken noodle. Turkey noodle from scratch. Bo kho. Khao soi. Noodle soup puts me in a happy place. And soto ayam is right up there.

Bowl of soto ayam from the front.

Soto ayam is not your run of the mill bowl of noodle soup

Soto ayam is unto itself. Most classic noodle soups are. Each has its distinctive broth. Toppings. Noodles. Spicing. You can take a trip around the world on noodle soup.

You could serve it as an appetizer. A cup of soup. But it comes into its own as the star. A big bowl of hot noodles in broth. A generous portion of the lemongrass infused fried chicken. A perfect medium boiled egg. See where I’m going here? Meal in a bowl.

It’s closest to laksa. But with way less coconut milk. There’s a spice paste at the base like laksa. Tons of flavour from that. The tastes are closer to Thai than Malay though. So not quite like laksa. Like I said. Unto itself.

Table scene with soto ayam, rice noodles, dried shallots and sambal oelek.

Indonesian chicken noodle soup is a labour of love

Funny thing about most of the big Asian soups. The famous ones. They are all real work. This is not the same as a simple cream of broccoli soup. You don’t just chuck a bunch of stuff in a pot and call it done.

But every step adds something special. The chicken gets poached in a lemongrass broth. That adds more chicken flavour to the broth. And a hint of lemongrass to the chicken.

That chicken gets fried. So it has this wonderful crispy texture. And deeper chicken flavour.

There’s a paste. Shallots. Garlic. Spices. Ginger. That gets cooked down. Until the flavours meld into this wonderful soup base.

The paste goes into the lemongrass broth. Double tasty. It’s not as crazy as tonkotsu ramen from scratch but it’s not trivial either.

You get something at the other end of the journey. A little insight into the Indonesian kitchen. A truly great bowl of soup. For me it’s worth it. You have to decide for yourself. Are crazy soups your thing?

Major research required

Full disclosure. I’m not Indonesian. I didn’t grow up eating Indonesian. My mom didn’t make Indonesian chicken noodle soup for me. This is not a family secret recipe.

It is the result of a whole lot of research. I’ve had soto ayam in the Netherlands. That’s as close as you can get outside Indonesia I think. They are mad for Indonesian in the Netherlands. So I have a baseline.

I couldn’t find anything that lined up with it in any cookbook I own. And I own a lot of cookbooks. Looking at recipes online didn’t help either.

Soto ayam fried chicken closeup from the front.

Indonesian youtube unlocked soto ayam for me

In the end I used my VPN. Set it to Indonesia. So I could get to google Indonesia. Watched a bunch of Indonesian youtube videos. A lot of google translate. Learned some new words. And came up with this.

It’s a bit more work than I expected. More work than most soto ayam recipes I’ve seen. But in the end that’s what makes it special. Going the distance.

The chicken – It’s poached in a lemongrass lime leaf broth. And then it’s shallow fried. You wind up with these little bites of lemongrass infused crispy chicken. Crazy good.

The spicing – The spicing for soto ayam actually pretty delicate. A bit of turmeric. Just enough to give the soup some colour. A little pepper. And some coriander powder. It’s actually vaguely Indian tasting until you add in the lemongrass and lime leaf.

The spice paste – Frying the shallots, garlic and ginger is a nice touch. Not one I’d thought of on my own. This one is pure Indonesian youtube. Mellows the sharp edges. It makes a difference.

Candlenut – It’s not easy to find candlenut where I live. But macadamia nuts work pretty well. And pretty easy to find. If you can get candlenut do it. But if you can’t then macadamia nuts will do.

Fried shallots – Fried shallots are way better than you’d expect. And you should expect them to be pretty tasty. Think onion rings. Now think about the complexity shallots bring. Getting it yet? You need to try these little flavour bombs.

Soto ayam bowl with chopsticks from above.

You need to try this soup

Indonesian chicken noodle soup. Dinner in a bowl. If you don’t know soto ayam you need to try it.

A bit more effort than you might expect. But so worth it. This is one tasty soup. Satisfying. Rich chicken. Flavourful, complex broth. Fried shallots. Cilantro.

And a not so authentic medium boiled egg just to push it over the top. That’s a glebe kitchen touch.

It all just works. In a way you might not expect. But in a way you are going to love. After all, who doesn’t love chicken noodle soup? Make it. Or find a restaurant that serves it. Just try it. Seriously. Find a way.

“A person who doesn’t love chicken noodle soup is a person without a soul” said somebody. Somewhere. At some point. Maybe. OK – maybe not. I made that up. But think about it…

Bowl of soto ayam on bamboo background from above.
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4.85 from 26 votes

soto ayam – Indonesian chicken noodle soup

Course Main
Cuisine Indonesian
Keyword indonesian chicken noodle soup, soto ayam
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings 4
Calories 890kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


The chicken and soup base

  • 8 chicken thighs skin removed
  • 8 cups chicken stock no sodium (homemade is nice here)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass cut into 3 pieces
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • vegetable oil to shallow fry

The spice paste

  • 1 cup shallots chopped the size of garlic cloves
  • 5 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger chopped
  • 1 tbsp macadamia nuts – these are a replacement for the more traditional but harder to find candlenuts
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil

The soto ayam

  • the stock from cooking the chicken
  • 12 oz rice vermicelli
  • 4 large eggs
  • chopped cilantro to garnish
  • fried shallots to garnish
  • sambal oelek to serve
  • lime wedges to serve


Prep the chicken

  • Skin the chicken.
  • Combine the stock, kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass and salt in a pot large enough to hold all the ingredients. Bring to a simmer.
  • Add the chicken and simmer until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 170F. This should take 15-20 minutes. Don't boil. Simmer. Little bubbles.
  • Remove the chicken from the broth. Blot dry. Set aside. You can also turn off the heat under the broth for now.

Make the spice paste

  • While the chicken simmers make the spice paste.
  • Heat a bit of oil in a small skillet. Add the garlic, shallot and ginger and fry until the shallots soften and start to colour up.
  • Transfer the garlic, shallot and ginger to a blender. Add the remaining ingredients and puree. This is your spice paste.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a pot over medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer add the paste and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium low and cook for another two minutes or so. The oil should start to separate at the edges.
  • Stir the cooked paste into the broth and stir.

Fry the chicken

  • If you fried shallots just keep going with the chicken. If not heat around 2 cups of oil in a frying pan large enough to hold half the chicken (4 thighs). A spatter guard isn't a bad idea here if you have one.
  • Fry on one side for about 2-3 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook another 2-3 minutes. You want the chicken to brown but you don't want to cook it to death…Remove the chicken and repeat with the other 4 thighs. Set aside to cool enough to handle.
  • When it's cool enough pull the chicken off the bone and shred it.

Medium boil the eggs

  • Bring enough water to cover the eggs by one inch to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the eggs and set a timer. You want to cook them exactly seven minutes.
  • After seven minutes remove them from the pan and submerge in an ice bath. This stops the eggs from cooking more. This should get you about a perfect medium boiled egg. Peel but don't slice them yet.

Assemble the soto ayam

  • Bring the broth to a lively simmer. Taste it. Be careful. It's hot. It will need more salt. It will be somewhere around another 1/2 to full teaspoon. Maybe more. Season to your taste.
  • To soften the rice vermicelli just fully submerge it in the hottest water you can get out of your tap. Let it sit five minutes and drain. Rinse with cold water. People that tell you to cook rice vermicelli like to eat rice noodle mush.
  • Have your garnishes ready. Slice your eggs in half. Use a sharp knife and be careful. Those yolks are still soft.
  • To serve place 1/4 of the rice noodles in each of 4 bowls. Divide the chicken and place it on the vermicelli. Top with fried shallots and cilantro. Pour 2 cups of broth into each bowl. Add one egg and a slice of lime per bowl. Serve. Add sambal oelek to taste. Enjoy.


You are going to fry the chicken. Might as well fry up some shallots as well.  Grab 2 or 3 large shallots. Peel them. Slice them thinly to make rings.
Heat up two cups of oil to 325F. Use a slotted spoon to carefully lower the shallots into the hot oil. Do this in batches. Hot oil and shallots makes a lot of bubbles. A lot. Nobody needs hot oil boiling over on the stove.
Shallots keep cooking when they come out of the oil so pull them when they are tan. Watch your first batch cool. If they are too dark pull them a little sooner next time. You’ll see and soon get the hang of it. Repeat until all the shallots are cooked.
Or you can just buy fried onions at your local asian grocer. But you are going to fry the chicken anyway so…


Serving: 4servings | Calories: 890kcal | Carbohydrates: 82g | Protein: 60g | Fat: 36g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Cholesterol: 405mg | Sodium: 1145mg | Potassium: 1132mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 355IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 101mg | Iron: 6mg

23 thoughts on “soto ayam – indonesian chicken noodle soup”

  1. 5 stars
    So good! I missed the part about frying the paste so I have to try that next time, but loved this anyway! I’m planning on making it again tomorrow for my vegan daughter, so will use vegetables instead of chicken!

  2. It’s not macadamia nut that we use in cooking Soto ayam. It is candle nut. Candle nut and macadamia is a different nut specially in fragrance. Most people mix up the macadamia and candle nuts in cooking Indonesian food.

    • Yes. I point that out both in the description and the recipe. Candle nuts can be hard to find so I offer a substitute.

  3. 5 stars
    Thank you for this recipe! Its very similar to the ones back home, and the best one written in English by far. Your collection of recipes are all amazing. Im working up the commitment to try making your ramen recipe.

    P.S. This isnt an Indonesian thing but my mom used to do it: dust/lightly coat the shallots in maizena (corn starch), it makes it very crispy and good as toppings for rice, curries, etc. Also a lot of Indonesian recipes can be found on “cookpad”, i think its what most Indonesians use

    • Thank you! I’m delighted you enjoyed it. And thanks for the tips. I will try the cornstarch idea next time I fry shallots. Sounds delicious.

    • For some odd reason, I can’t seem to post my own comment without piggybacking on someone else’s so here goes..
      Did you use boneless chicken thighs (and/ or can you) or you prefer bone in? Don’t you have to skim the liquid while simmering the thighs especially with bone in meat?

      Romain, Are you in Ottawa by chance because there’s a Glebe neighborhood here and I live in Ottawa. If you are, hurray because I see myself as a fellow foodie too ! I am however originally from Singapore, with a special love reserved for Asian cuisine! I am really pleased to have found your site.
      p.s. I have tons of cookbooks as well..

    • Sorry you are having trouble posting comments. Not sure what is going on.

      Yup. It’s the same Glebe. When I started the blog it was just to share my recipes with my friends so I went with a simple name. If you’ve stumbled across the Eggplant Curry recipe the restaurant I worked so hard to reverse engineer is Light of India on Bank Street.

      Nice to meet you fellow Ottawa foodie and cookbook nut:-)

  4. Ps, we add two whole chilliest to the spice paste, for an extra kick, and I add some toasted desiccated coconut.. We prefer it a bit spicier! I’ve also cooked rending for her! ???

  5. 5 stars
    Halo! Terima Kasih for the recipe! My wife is Indonesian, and arrived in the UK December last year. (2019) She said the recipe is enak (delicious) and I have cooked it for her four times now, and when she feels homesick. Well done, and she loves the addition of the eggs, she says it makes her think of Ramen! (Which she loves too)

    Thank you so much!


    • Sama sama. I’m glad to hear it reminds her of home! I am a ramen junkie so I put eggs in everything I can!

  6. Hi! I can’t wait to try this and my Daughter can have it too since it isn’t spicy, but wondering if your have the recipe for the sambal For the adults.
    I’m also gonna make begedil to go with this.

    • I don’t have one yet. I admit to using store bought sambal oelek here. I know. Shame on me. I will put a proper sambal recipe on the list…

    • I make this from the scratch every other week. If you need the sambal that goes with this particular soup, e-mail me. I’ll email you back the recipe.

  7. 5 stars
    Hey Terima Kasih for posting all these carefully researched and prepared Asian recipes! I found you while googling Soto Ayam. My friend is recovering from leg injuries resulting from a vehicle collision and I thought this version of Chicken Noodle Soup would be new to her and wonderfully fortifying. I lived in Indonesia for quite some time, and am very familiar with preparing Balinese and Javanese dishes. But I didn’t have a recipe for Soto. This recipe is wonderful, and kudos to you for having the sensitivity to the culture and cuisine without having been brought up there. Happy to say that we have that in common!

    • Sama-sama (hope I got that right). And what a wonderful comment. Thank you. I hope your friend enjoys a good bowl of chicken noodle soup and they feel better for it. I know a big bowl of anything chicken noodle from that part of the world puts a smile on my face!

4.85 from 26 votes (20 ratings without comment)

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