Recipe: Soto ayam, the world’s best chicken soup!

It’s fall (or just about), and I have my first cold of the season.ūüė¶

But all is not awfulness, because at least I have an excuse to make my favorite chicken soup–which, since 2011, has been soto ayam. (Sorry, matzo ball!) With its super-flavorful, coconut-milk-thickened broth filled with chicken, rice noodles, and crunchy sprouts and scallions, it’s not just the only chicken-noodle soup I’ve ever really gotten excited about; it’s one of the best¬†dishes, period, that I tried¬†during my world travels.

Soto ayam, Labuan, Java

Soto ayam in Labuan, western Java

 

The way I make this soup at home is in the style of the¬†little roadside stall in Labuan (western Java) where I first tried it. Apparently, soto ayam varies by region in Indonesia, so when I¬†returned to the states and wanted to learn how to make it, I¬†had to sift through many different recipes. After a few rounds of¬†experimentation, though, I finally developed¬†this master recipe, which is very true to my memory of the soup I had in Java. It’s a bit of a project, but completely worth the effort, in my opinion. If you try it, let me know what you think!

Soto ayam

Soto ayam made at home

Soto ayam recipe
serves 4

Broth ingredients:
1-2 bone-in chicken thighs (depending on how much meat you like in your soup)
2 lemongrass stalks (or 1.5 TBSP lemongrass powder)
1 tsp salt
6 cups water

Spice paste ingredients:
8 almonds
3 garlic cloves
1-2 TBSP chopped fresh ginger (or one knob of ginger, peeled)
1 small onion (or 2 shallots)
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 TBSP coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 small dried chili
1.5 tsp turmeric
1 tsp brown sugar
juice of one lime
1-2 TBSP neutral oil or coconut milk

Additional ingredients:
2 TBSP neutral oil
1 can coconut milk (or 1.5 cups)
reserved chicken broth
reserved shredded chicken
1 bunch bean sprouts, rinsed
1 bunch spring onions, sliced
7-8 oz thin rice noodles

Directions:

1) Combine broth ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 40 minutes, partially covered. Remove chicken thighs and set aside to cool. Discard lemongrass stalks (if used). Reserve broth to use later in the recipe.

2) Combine spice paste ingredients in a food processor. Process for about 5 minutes, or until a thick paste has formed.

3) Once chicken thighs are cool, remove the meat from the bones and shred it. Discard the bones.

4) Heat 2 TBSP oil in your large pot on medium-high heat, and add spice paste. Fry spice paste for 5 minutes, stirring almost constantly. Add coconut milk, reserved chicken broth, and shredded chicken; bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add bean sprouts and cook 5 more minutes. Add spring onions and cook 1 minute. Turn off heat.

5) Meanwhile, boil a pot of water and cook rice noodles according to package directions. When ready, drain, rinse with cold water, and mix in a little oil to keep noodles from clumping.

6) To serve: divide rice noodles among four bowls and ladle soup over them, making sure to get a good mix of solids and broth. Serve with a spoon and either chopsticks or a fork. Enjoy!

(Note: In Indonesia, this soup would be served with a bowl of white rice on the side–but for me, the rice noodles are starch enough so I don’t bother. It might also be served with fried shallots sprinkled on top, which are¬†delicious. I’m just too lazy to make them most of the time.)

 

Creative Spaces!

SWEET blog button2Final blog tour stop!

Yes, the Stars So Sweet blog tour is wrapping up, and today I’m at Jennifer Chambliss Bertman’s blog, showing everyone where the writing magic (and, um, laundry) happens in my Creative Spaces interview.

This is also your last chance to win a full set of the All Four Stars series!

(Also, if you haven’t read Jennifer’s NY Times-bestselling MG novel Book Scavenger, what are you waiting for??)

Though the virtual tour is ending, my real-life tour rolls on–I’ll be in Cedarhurst, NY today, Larchmont, NY tomorrow, and Colorado next week! Check out my events page for the details.

Happy release day, Stars So Sweet!

RSTARS SO SWEET by Tara Dairmanelease day is here, and the All Four Stars trilogy is complete.¬†Stars So Sweet, the concluding volume of the series, is now out in the world! I’ll be celebrating tonight at¬†Books of Wonder in NYC–I hope you’ll join me if you’re in the area.

You can find a link with info about that event, and all my upcoming appearances in the New York, Washington DC, and Denver areas, right here. (*Please note that the Denver event location has changed to Aspen Grove/Littleton.)

As Gladys might describe it, coming to the end of the series that made me an author is like a strong cup of tea with a splash of honey–bitter and sweet.

Two Julys ago, only a handful of people had read about Gladys Gatsby and her foodie shenanigans. Now, her stories have reached thousands of readers, young and old, all over the world.

Two Julys ago, I wondered if anyone beyond family and friends would find my writing worth reading. This year, I’m set to teach writing workshops at my first SCBWI conference and to present to students at my first book festival.

Two Julys ago, I wondered whether All Four Stars would sell enough copies to convince my publisher to put out a sequel. This year, booksellers have been tweeting me for months about their young patrons asking for the third volume.

What an honor it’s been to work with my brilliant editors, become involved in the kidlit community, and bring Gladys’s stories to readers! I hope that you enjoy the conclusion of her story as much as I’ve enjoyed writing each book in this series.

A Baked Creation!

SWEET blog button2Stars So Sweet comes out tomorrow! If you’re in New York, I hope you’ll join me at Books of Wonder to celebrate!

Blog tour stop #8: Check out this delicious review and¬†bonus cheese and scallion¬†madeleine recipe (YUM) by Sylvia at A Baked Creation!¬†Her fancy photography of¬†Stars So Sweet¬†among the macarons is definitely worth a gander, too.ūüôā

For What It’s Worth!

SWEET blog button2Blog tour stop #7: Here’s an excerpt.

“I can‚Äôt think of a better book to sit down and read with your kids. It opens your eyes to different cultures, foods, languages and is an excellent jumping off point to discuss diversity, responsibility and relationships of all kinds.”

Thank you so much to Karen at¬†For What It’s Worth! I’m humbled and flattered by your recommendation.

Karen is also giving away a set of books–head on over to enter!

The blog tour will pick back up next week, and release day for Stars So Sweet is Tuesday, July 19.