It was 7:58AM and 52 seconds precisely the morning of December 26, 2004 when the earth shook off the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.
An earthquake with an unprecedented magnitude of 9.3 on the Richter scale at a depth of 6 miles only. It was one of the most violent earthquakes ever recorded.
At 8:38AM, a tsunami started ravaging the coasts of Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka India, Malaysia and Maldives. It ended up being responsible for the injuries of at least 125,000 people, the loss of at least 250,000 lives and the displacement of 1.2 to 2 million people.
To mark the sad anniversary of this big natural disaster, the 196 flavors team takes you to South East Asia this week, and more precisely Indonesia, with deep thoughts for all the missing and all those who have suffered from near and far.
Now let’s try to bring back a smile.
On to cooking and food which have always brought peace. When you love eating, you just love life… isn’t the main function of man to eat? Joanne, Mike and I are trying hard to make you love life!
Anyone who’s been following us closely since the birth of our beautiful blog knows that I’m the one in the trio who just can’t get enough of soup! I’m a real soup gourmet!
Soup is, in my opinion, a meal that offers so many options in both savory and sweet versions.
After Finnish lohikeitto, Bahamian souse, pumpkin soup from Botswana, cream of mushroom soup from Montenegro, Egyptian mlokhia, Moroccan Harira and Japanese miso soup, I am going to prepare an Indonesian cuisine institution: soto.
Soto is influenced by Chinese cuisine and offers a multitude of variants. Each variant has a name determined by its place of origin or creation.
I chose to prepare a version called soto ayam. In the Indonesian language, soto means soup and ayam means chicken. The most commonly used name for this soup is soto but it has other names depending on the region. In Pekalongan, it is called tauto, and in Makassar, it is known as coto. It is also quite famous in Singapore and Malaysia where it is called soto. It was also introduced in Suriname by Javanese immigrants where it is called saoto.
I rarely used so many fragrant ingredients in a single recipe. First of all, two delicious spices, fresh ginger and fresh turmeric that are combined with coconut milk, lemongrass, cumin seeds, kaffir lime, lemon leaves, and finally my discovery of the day: galangal, essential element of this dish. Galangal is a plant native to Asia from the same family as ginger and very commonly used in many Asian recipes.
My disappointment for the preparation of this recipe was a big one! The lack of an unusual ingredient candlenuts also called Indian walnut or kemiri in Indonesian.
And it’s not for lack of trying. I went to twenty Parisian Asian markets in two days with the help of my friends Laurence and Karine, who drove with me but also helped me prospect by phone.
Laurence, who is not an aries, is surprisingly as stubborn as Joanne, Mike and me when it comes to finding an impossible to find ingredient. When she found out that candlenuts had proven therapeutic slimming benefits, she had the idea to turn to pharmaceutical companies and finally found where to get this ingredient. Unfortunately, it was online and the delivery time was too long.
I kept the details of that laboratory on hand, and believe me, I have not said my last word about this candlenut that I had never heard of until a few days ago! I will definitely find another recipe to use it… very soon!
At home, we just loved this delicious soup with exceptional flavors!
Recipe of Soto Ayam
Preparation time: 35 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes
Ingredients (4 people)
4 chicken cutlets or 4 boneless chicken legs
6 cups water
2 cups coconut milk
2 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
4 lime leaves
8 garlic cloves
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1 4-inch piece of galangal, peeled
1 4-inch piece of fresh turmeric, peeled
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon peppercorns
1 ½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
4 oz rice vermicelli
3 stalks spring onions, thinly sliced
2 red chili peppers, sliced
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
1 cup bean sprouts
Juice of 2 kaffir limes
¼ bunch cilantro
1 cup rice, cooked
In a Dutch oven, sauté the chicken in half the oil for 5 minutes.
Add water, coconut milk, half the lemongrass, the lime leaves, spring onions, half the garlic, tomato, celery, and salt.
Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
Reduce heat to medium-low.
Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked.
Remove the chicken from the broth and set aside.
Remove skin and bones from chicken and cut into strips. Set aside.
Prepare a spice paste:
With a pestle and mortar or a food processor, grind the shallots, ginger, galangal, turmeric, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, peppercorns, the remaining lemongrass, garlic until obtaining a smooth paste.
Heat the remaining oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.
Sauté the spice paste and hot pepper slices for 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Add broth and reserved kaffir lime juice.
Bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes. Set aside.
Cook the rice vermicelli according to the package directions. Drain.
Blanch bean sprouts in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain.
Place all the ingredients in large bowls.
Pour the broth into each bowl.
Sprinkle with fresh cilantro.
Serve with rice.