Newspaper Noshes: Soto Ayam (Indonesian Noodle Soup.)
Wednesday's omnipresent NY Times food section featured curried noodle soups: those omnipresent and oh-so-good Southeast Asian specialities. Similar to pho but generally less delicate and more in your face, I've enjoyed slurping big bowls of this stuff for a while. I decided to give the NY Times recipe for Soto Ayam a try - perhaps because I really enjoy stripping all the meat off chickens.
First things first: Boil An Old Dead Hen. I did not have an old hen but I did have a dead one, which I hacked up into bits, tossed in a pot with a bit of lemongrass, salt, and water, and cooked for 45 minutes. The chicken cooked through nicely with a faint (and i mean faint) aromatic scent of lemongrass. I shredded it, threw away the nasty/delicious bits, and set it aside.
Item two: make spice paste, comprised of shallots, cumin seeds, coriander, garlic, ginger, and turmeric. I did this in my dinky little blender and it came out sharp and tasty: I sauteed it for a bit. I have no idea what exactly the recipe means by "saute until the oil begins to separate from paste" because this did not actually occur and things just got rather lumpy. Be forewarned.
Item two: dump the spice paste and the cooked chicken into the stock pot and cook for about 10 minutes to really blend those favors. Final touch involves stirring in two tablespoons of lime juice and pouring over rice noodles - bam, you're done.
The soup came out rich and chickeny but extremely delicate in flavor. Might be great for the less Asian-flavors inclined among us but I'm down with the funky stuff, and this didn't have enough flavor for my liking. We ended up dumping in a bag of arugula and spinach to the mix, which added a nice green peppery flavor to matters. I also added a gigantic quantity of Tiger sauce, but let's be honest, I do that to everything.
Final verdict? Tasty recipe that needs more oomph. I'll make it again, but I think I'll add the spice paste earlier -that's what they do in this recipe and it seems like a wise and flavor-enhancing idea.
Overall, if you're looking for a nice olfactory cleansing Asian riff on Ye Olde Chicken Noodle Soup, you can't go wrong here. Thanks again, Indonesia.