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Soto Medan - Medan Style Chicken Soup

I was born in Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra, and spent my childhood there. It is quite natural then that I am really partial to dishes from Medan. :D One such example is soto medan, chicken soup cooked in a broth of coconut milk, and believe it or not, we just call it soto back then since no one would get confused as to which soto you meant. It was not until my family moved to Jakarta that I even realized there are actually a dizzying array of dishes called soto, each hails from a different region in Indonesia. If you are interested at some other soto dishes from around Indonesia, you can check my posts on Soto Betawi and Soto Lamongan. I do plan to cover more soto dishes in the future, so stay tuned. ♥

Soto Medan – Medan Style Chicken Soup
Soto Medan – Medan Style Chicken Soup

Updated Photos (11/22/2018)

I often re-cook all my recipes, and sometimes, when I am not struck with my usual laziness, I will remember to take new photos! So, here are some updated photos. I am going to keep the old photo here since it is still relevant, just maybe not as pretty. :)

Soto Medan – Medan Style Chicken Soup
Soto Medan – Medan Style Chicken Soup

Chicken drumsticks/thighs?

In case you are wondering why the photos show drumsticks instead of thigh, you can use either. Most of the times, my freezer is stocked with drumsticks instead of skin-on bone-in thighs. I do almost always have skinless boneless thigh meat, but those are not really suitable for soto Medan. The skin and the bone contributes to a much richer soup. And believe me, you want a much richer soup, and not wimpy thin version of what it should have been.

Soto Medan – Medan Style Chicken Soup
Soto Medan – Medan Style Chicken Soup

Other acceptable substitution

And while we are talking about substitution. Here are some ingredients you can safely substitute:

  • shallot: onion/red onion (same weight)
  • candlenut: macadamia/almond (same weight)
  • fresh herb: dried herb, such as galangal, ginger, and turmeric
  • kaffir lime leaf: lime zest (1 leaf = 1 zest, so a lot of limes!)
Soto Medan – Medan Style Chicken Soup
Soto Medan – Medan Style Chicken Soup

Soto Medan - Medan Style Chicken Soup

5.0 from 3 reviews

Author: Anita Jacobson




Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 2 hours

Serves: 4

Print Recipe


  • Soto
  • 4 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 4 chicken thigh
  • 6 kaffir lime leaves (Indonesian: daun jeruk)
  • 6 bay leaves (Indonesian: daun salam)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (Indonesian: kayu manis)
  • 3 cardamom (Indonesian: kapulaga)
  • 2 cloves (Indonesian: cengkeh)
  • ½ star anise (Indonesian: bunga lawang/bunga pekak)
  • 1000 ml water
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • Grind the following into spice paste
  • 6 shallots
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 3 candlenuts (Indonesian: kemiri)
  • 20 gram fresh galangal (Indonesian: lengkuas), peeled
  • 10 gram fresh turmeric (Indonesian: kunyit), peeled
  • 5 gram fresh ginger (Indonesian: jahe), peeled
  • ½ tablespoon coriander powder (Indonesian: bubuk ketumbar)
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper (Indonesian: bubuk lada)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (Indonesian: bubuk pala)
  • Combine the following ingredients to make the chili sauce
  • 40 gram ground red chilies
  • juice of 1 lime (Indonesian: jeruk nipis)
  • 3 tablespoon sweet soy sauce (Indonesian: kecap manis)
  • ½ tablespoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Condiments
  • 100 gram glass noodles (Indonesian: sohun), soaked in boiling water until tender and drained
  • ½ cup bean sprouts (Indonesian: taoge)
  • fried shallots (Indonesian: bawang merah goreng)
  • melinjo crackers (Indonesian: emping)
  • 4 kaffir limes (Indonesian: jeruk limo)


  1. Heat cooking oil in a soup pot and fry the spice paste until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add chicken thigh, lime leaves, bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, anise, water, and 100 ml of coconut milk into the pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until chicken is tender and fully cooked.
  3. Remove the chicken, tear the chicken meat with hands and set aside.
  4. Strain the soup and return the strained soup to the pot. Add the rest of the coconut milk (another 100 ml) and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the soaked glass noodles and bean sprouts, cook for 1-2 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  6. Divide the soto into 4 bowls, topped each bowl with the shredded chicken meat from 1 chicken thigh, garnish with some fried shallots, and serve with a plate of steamed white rice, melinjo crackers, and juice of 1 kaffir lime along with the chili sauce.
Indonesian Pantry
Indonesian Kitchen


  • Emma Emma says:

    Made this for the second time at my husband's request—it's so good! One of our favorite sotos; in fact one of the few foods my husband has actually stolen some from my bowl (instead of—in true Javanese fashion—trying to put extra in mine). We've already made your lodeh (twice), opor ayam, lemongrass chicken, orak arik, and tempeh goreng sambal kemangi (that sauce is amazing). Thanks for all the great recipes! Your website is wonderful for a foreigner like me living in Indonesia. If my husband is craving a certain food, I know I can most likely find it on here. But I'm sure he'd be happy if you added a recipe for his hometown's famous dish "sego megono": rice cooked with coconut milk, kacang panjang, and spices. :)

    • Anita Anita says:

      I'm glad my recipes can be of help :) It's really fun when our family love our food, make all the hard work totally worth it. I'll add your request to my to-do-list Emma :)

  • M M says:

    Dear Anita, terima kasih banget untuk postingan resep soto medan ini! Sebagai perantau di negeri orang, kangen pun terobati saat makan. Anak-anak dan suami doyan sekali (kebetulan bule) sampai bolak-balik dimasak sesuai frequent request. Besok aku bikin Indonesian food party dan request dari keluarga... SOTO MEDAN! Peluk dari jauh... PS. tambah paru goreng, makjang indahnya!

  • Jojo Jojo says:

    Thank you Anita, tried it and added some bruised lemongrass, taste fantastic

  • Peggy Peggy says:

    Hello! Your recipe sounds really good! Can't wait to try this recipe! :) Also, may I know whether using coconut cream instead of coconut milk will alter the taste? And what are the differences? Thank you! :)

    • Anita Anita says:

      Hi Peggy, coconut cream is thicker compared to coconut milk, similar to how heavy cream is thicker compared to regular milk. If you want to use coconut cream, I would suggest diluting it with water to thin it out. Try using 100 ml coconut cream + 100 ml water to substitute for the 200 ml coconut milk.

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