Chicken Soup Cooked with Turmeric and Coconut Milk

Poultry Recipes

(Harini’s Version of Soto Bangilan, Origin: East Java)

It’s hard to give a short answer to the question “What’s Indonesian food like?” It depends on: who is being asked and where in Indonesia this person comes from. Cuisines vary from one island to the next. People may also find unalike tastes and types of food in different parts of an island. Now imagine if you have thousands of islands. The immense diversity of culture, ethnicity, and dialect in the archipelago unquestionably gets reflected in the cuisines too.

I have been able to cook some of the home-cooked dishes I grew up with, mostly cuisines from West Sumatra and East Java. Though I have perfected some recipes I still have plenty to try and learn to do. Recently I taught myself to make one more dish native to one part of East Java: Chicken Soup with Turmeric and Coconut Milk (Soto Bangilan). Soto is basically chicken soup that is cooked with turmeric and is infused with spices. (The significance of Soto is its yellow color that comes from turmeric.) Bangilan is the name of a small town in East Java where this particular Soto can be found and enjoyed. There are many varieties of Soto throughout the island and in the country. Chicken Soto is very popular in Java along with Soto Madura which is of the Madura island origin.

Anyway, one day my mom and I had a food talk about Soto Bangilan. She kept talking about how delicious it was. I never had the dish before. Curiosity led me to ask for Soto Bangilan‘s recipe from one of my aunts. Thanks to her I was able to add one more dish to my recipe collection!

Here is my version of the recipe:


  • 5-6 Smaller size of boneless chicken thighs (diced)
  • 2-3 Boiled eggs (halved)
  • 1 Lime
  • Sweet soya sauce (usually available at Asian grocery stores)
  • A handful of thin rice noodle (dip them in boiling water until they get soft, drain, and set aside)
  • 1 Box of chicken stock (32 oz)
  • 2-3 Handful of bean sprouts (dip them in boiling water for a minute or two, drain, and set aside)
  • A handful of fried shallots (usually available at Asian grocery stores)
  • White jasmine rice (The recipe calls for lontong, a compressed rice that can be cut into pieces like cakes. I prefer to have it with regular white rice.)
  • 5-6 Scallions (chopped)

Spices to be mixed in a food processor:

  • 3 Shallots
  • 1 Teaspoon of minced garlic
  • 1 Teaspoon of corriander
  • ½ Teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 Inch of Galangal root
  • 5-6 Candlenuts
  • ½ Teaspoon of shrimp paste
  • Salt

Add to the pot:

  • 3 Kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 Lemongrass
  • 1 Can of light coconut milk (the original recipe requests for more coconut milk but I prefer to have it light)


  • In a bigger pot, saute the spices, lime leaves, and lemongrass with a little canola oil
  • Add the chicken and mix well with the spices
  • Add the chicken stock and a cup of water (or two)
  • Let it boil until the chicken is well cooked, add the coconut milk, and stir
  • Let it cook for another 10 minutes
  • Add fried shallots to the broth

Serve in a deep plate or a bowl:

  • A little bit of white jasmine rice, bean sprouts, scallions, thin rice noodles, halved boiled egg, and pour the Soto (with the diced chicken) on top of them
  • Top with a little squeeze of lime and a little sweet soya sauce
  • Serve with a little sambal (chilies) on the side (Only for those who love spicy, please)
  • Mix everything and enjoy!

Here is how to make the sambal for Soto:

  • Boil 10-15 Thai peppers and 2-3 candle nuts for 5-10 minutes
  • Drain and chop them up in a food processor
  • Add a little salt and serve
  • Note: only take a little at a time and mix with the dish

Enjoy a bowl of multifarious goodness. The warmth of the soup and its big flavor fill up a hungry stomach perfectly. Leftover is to be expected. Great for next day’s lunch!

Serve 2-4