Soto is a traditional Indonesian soup. Commonly composed of broth, meat, and vegetables, soto can be found across the country, from Sumatra to Papua, as the Indonesian equivalent of chicken soup. The term “soto” itself refers to more traditional dishes, whereas the term “sop” refers to Western-style and foreign-influenced soups.

Above: Soto Bogor from Kedai Soto , a resto in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia.

Some soto contains rice, while other variations contain noodles or vermicelli, and still other variations contain both rice and noodles. Some sotos may contain lontong, a type of rice compressed by cooking rice grains in a banana leaf and slicing into small cakes. The broth can contain susu kelapa (coconut milk) or remain clear and watery. However, the thickness and color of soto varies based upon the recipe.

Left to Right: Soto sapi; A full meal with soto, es jeruk, and kerupuk; Soto ayam. All photos are from Pak Soto, a local warung in Mrican, Yogyakarta, Special Region of Yogyakarta.

Soto is sometimes considered to be the national dish (the actual national dish is a take on fried rice) and is omnipresent in Indonesia. It can be found in warungs, on street corners, and in high-end restaurants. The most common variations are soto ayam (chicken soup) and soto sapi (beef soup). Many refer to soto as an Indonesian comfort food, and most Indonesian cities seem to have their own special, localized version of soto.

Soto kaki sapi (soup with cow’s feet) from a street corner on Jl. Kaliurang in Yogyakarta, Special Region of Yogyakarta.

Soto is most prevalent on the island of Java. Many people choose to consume soto with kerupuk, a local type of cracker. Other side dishes include sate (meat on a stick), tahu or tempe goreng (fried tofu or tempe), or perkedul (fried mashed potato patties).

Common soto spices include garlic and shallots, turmeric, salt, coriander and cilantro, salt, pepper, and ginger. Often, soto is flavored with lemongrass, mung bean sprouts, and lime. When consuming the dish, it is common to add kechup manis (sweet soy sauce) and/or sambal (a hot pepper sauce made of chilies, water, sugar, and salt) to enhance the flavor.

Left: Soto campur, a mixture of meats and vegetables. Right: A bowl of assorted sate, including as Sate Usus (intestines) and Sate Telor (eggs, usually from a bird).

Soto is definitely one of my favorites because of its simplicity and variety. Don’t leave Indonesia without seeking out at least a few different soto places!

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