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Thursday, April 02, 2009

Malaysian Beef Noodle Soup - Soto Daging

Sometimes I feel like the noodle monster. I can eat it for breakfast, lunch, dinner and also for elevenses and tea in between. I even dream up ways to eat it and how to cook it. This is my absolute favourite way of eating noodle - in noodle soup, especially made with beef soup, or what is known as Soto Daging.

There are a lot of ways of making soto. The most ubiquitous is probably soto ayam which is served with rice cakes, bergedil and sambal kicap. You can find various recipes to this delicious concoction. My personal favourite of soto ayam is done the Madura style which is quite different from the ones you find in Malaysia. For soto daging, I like using sup tulang because I find it the flavour more robust and richer than plain beef soup. This is especially important since my soto is usually served with egg noodles or mi hun, thin rice noodles. The soto will be a one bowl meal with flavours built around the soup and the noodles and complemented by the other condiments and toppings. I also like layering texture so there will be plenty of fresh thinly sliced cucumber, crunchy bean sprout that is just barely blanched, crispy fried potato slices and fried shallot. For extra aromatics, there will be chopped celery leaves*- the herbs not the vegetable.
A little condiment that can make or break your soto is the sambal kicap. You can of course just cut some bird's eye chili, squeeze a little lemon and add some light soy sauce and it will be alright. But for it to be amazing, you have to make a special sambal kicap. I learnt to make this sambal in Jakarta about 10 years back. My friend Tuty taught me to fry whole garlic to be added to the chili paste, instead of using fresh garlic which makes a world of difference. The fried garlic lent a sweet aromatic taste to the sambal and is balanced by the tangy rice vinegar and fiery chilies. You then have a choice to pair the sambal with light or thick dark soy sauce. I use Kicap Sedang ABC a thick, glossy soy sauce which has the same texture as Kicap Manis but none of its cloying sweetness. To pep things up further, a squeeze of lime juice.

Put extra condiments and sambal on the table and let everyone help themselves to it, especially since with soto as good as this, one bowl is never quite enough ;-)

The recipe:
Ingredients:
500g egg noodles
1 quantity of sup tulang
1 cucumber
100g bean sprout (taugeh)
2 bunch of celery*
fried shallot (bawang goreng)
potato crisps (kerepek kentang)
sambal kicap

Method:
Mise en place is important for this. Prepare the soup ahead and the rest are just assembly work. and it is paramount to keep the soup boiling hot when you serve it.
1. Prepare the fried shallot. Slice the shallots thinly then fry in hot water and once it is crispy and golden, leave it on paper towel.
2. Prepare the potato crisps. Slice 3 potatoes thinly using a mandolin or your knife. Wash it thoroughly in hot water until all the starch is removed. Leave to rest for 10 minutes in a bowl of cold water. The potato slice will curl. Drain in a colander.
Add some salt to the oil you used to fry the shallot for extra flavour. Fry the potato slices in batches until golden and crispy. Remove and drain on paper towel.
3. Prepare the sambal kicap. Chop one chili and some bird's eye chilies and add to your pestle and mortar with some sea salt. Add 3 fried garlic and pound some more. Add a dash of rice vinegar, 1 tsp of sugar and mix into a thick sambal. Add some soy sauce and lime juice.
4. Prepare the cucumber. Cut the cucumber into thin strips and set aside.
5. Chop the celery leaves and set aside.
6. Prepare the noodles. Add them into a big pot of boiling water. When they are ready, wash under a running cold water until cold. This will keep the texture from turning limp and floury. Set aside.
7. Put the sup tulang on the stove and keep it simmering. Remove the beef and shred the meat using a fork and spoon. Keep the meat warm.
8. Keep a big pot of hot water on the stove ready while you assemble everything. Keep your serving bowls warm at the same time.
9. Blanch the noodles in the boiling water, drain and add to the bowls.
10. Blanch the bean sprouts and place on top of the noodles.
11. Pile the shredded meat, chopped celery, cucumber strips, fried shallots and potato crisp on the noodles and ladle the soup onto each bowl.
12. Serve immediately with sambal kicap, more potato crisps and fried onions.
note on celery leaves:
In Malaysia, we don't use coriander in soups; we use celery leaves. It is even known as daun sup (soup leaves). The correct Malay term for it is daun sadri. Daun means leaves in Malay.
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