Soto Ayam is Indonesian Chicken Soup and just as much a comfort food as a can of Campbell’s in America. Read on to learn more about this popular local soup and our secret local spots that you won’t find in the Bule Bubble of Canggu!
What is Soto Ayam?
Soto Ayam, as mentioned above, is basically the Indonesian version of chicken noodle soup. It’s popular across nearly the entire country and can vary depending on the region.
In Bali, you’ll find mostly a very similar set of ingredients; pulled chicken, rice noodles, hardboiled egg, fried shallots, celery leaves and small slices of fried potato. On the side you will often get slices of lime and sometimes sprouts as well, although I noticed that it’s becoming more uncommon to get the sprouts.
Soto ayam can be served pisah which means split, or campur which means mixed. It’s personal preference, but I prefer soto pisah so the rice doesn’t get too soft. If I wanted porridge I’d go eat bubur instead!
How do you eat Soto Ayam?
There is no wrong way to eat soto but perhaps the most enjoyable way is by spooning some broth and chicken on top of your rice and then scooping it up immediately from the bottom. Inversely, you can take a spoonful of rice and scoop up a bit of broth with it.
If you like spicy, you should definitely add some sambal. It’s best to put the sambal with the rice before you know how much spice you can tolerate. Each place can have varying levels of spiciness to their sambal. If you add it to the soup and it’s too spicy you might not be able to finish it!
Blue rice noodles?!?
If you eat enough soto ayam, you’re likely to notice at some point the blue rice noodles. No, they haven’t gone off or something like that. Indonesians love colourful food and while the origins of this practice are likely unknown, it’s just assumed to be a gimmick.
While modern snacks use artificial food colouring, authentic traditional Indonesian foods use natural forms of color. For example, the use of turmeric is what gives most soto ayam broth its yellow appearance.
With soto ayam you’ll almost ALWAYS find soto ceker, ceker is feet… chicken feet. No, even after more than a decade here I still think that’s a hard pass (I tried once, it was my first and last time).
Every soto place is different….
What makes one soto ayam place better than the other? Of course their recipe, freshness of ingredients, portion, price and service.
Just because it’s expensive (such as common in Canggu or other tourist areas), DOESN’T mean it will be good or even authentic. When I’m in the mood I visit one of my few favourites closest to where I live.
Sometimes I’m craving the one with less salt, this one is called soto “seger,” which means fresh. Every time I eat there the Ibu reminds me that she intentionally doesn’t put much salt. It’s perfect for when you’re not feeling well or not super hungry but your body is telling you to eat. This is what makes soto ayam the perfect comfort food.
Another is full on flavour, not too salty, but definitely not the same as the soto seger. When I’m feeling like I want something more savoury, I’ll visit this place.
Craving Soto Ayam after reading this? Check out these 2 spots…
TONYOTO is owned by a kind local by the name of Aji. His soto ayam is very savoury and full of flavour. The meat they use is ayam kampung, which is free-range chicken from the village. There is a selection of crackers, but I highly recommend you try the quail eggs. A portion of soto ayam here is Rp.15,000 with rice (US$1.02). They also have fresh juices.
SOTO SEGER BOYOLALI PAK ARIF is the fresh soto ayam mentioned above. You’ll most usually find two very friendly women there. They’re from Boyolali in Java not so far from Bali. A portion of soto ayam with rice is Rp. 13,000 (US$0.88). Along with the soto you should get yourself a warm orange juice (recommended with a little sugar only) and at least one of their potato fritters (perkedel kentang). The combo of soup, perkedel and sambal is just so very yum!
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