Friday, June 22, 2012

Malaysian Beef Soto (Soto Daging)

Soto Daging (Beef Soto) is a Malaysian dish comprising cubes of compressed rice sitting in a richly spiced beef broth, served with tender slices of beef, bean sprouts and sometimes potato croquettes (known as begedil), and then garnished with crispy fried shallots, chinese celery (or coriander leaves) and spring onions. My favourite part of the dish is the hot chilli soy sauce, which we call "kicap cili". It is a simple blend of finely chopped bird's eye chillies, garlic and soy sauce, and is usually mixed into the soup just before eating. The heat from the chillies together with the garlicky soy sauce somehow adds extra depth to the flavours of the soup and gives it the drool-factor (in fact, I am salivating right now trying to describe it).

Nasi Impit (Compressed rice)

You may have also heard of Mee Soto, which is typically made with chicken instead of beef, and uses noodles instead of compressed rice. The broth is usually lighter in terms of both flavour and colour, and is quite delicious too. However, I tend to prefer the stronger flavours of the beef version which pairs perfectly with the soft cubes of rice.

I made two types of chilli sauce for the beef soto, although just to have either one is perfectly fine. One was the kicap cili, which is the soy based one, and the other was an Indonesian style sambal that is simply made with chillies, garlic and candlenuts. In making the sambal, the chillies are first boiled together with the candlenuts, which softens and brings out the sweetness of the chillies. This sambal is really easy to make and you can season it with salt and sugar to your liking. You can either mix it into the soup, or use it as a dipping sauce for the beef. Any leftover sambal can be refrigerated for other uses, to dollop on your rice, or use for stir-fries or roast chicken etc.
Kicap Cili (chillies in soy sauce) - I used regular chillies instead, but green bird's eye chillies would be ideal

I don't think I have come across any restaurants in Sydney which serves Soto Daging, although the Indonesian-style Soto Ayam (chicken soto) is relatively easier to find. So, I'm sharing this recipe for Soto Daging which my mum  has been making for our family for many many years. It has been one of the "popular requests" alongside her equally delicious Mee Rebus, another one of my favourite dishes from home. The broth itself is quite easy to prepare, and just takes time to cook until the beef is tender. The compressed rice should be made a few hours ahead as it needs time to "compress" until it's firm. The chillies just need a bit of pounding with a mortar and pestle. And there you have it, home-made Soto Daging enough to feed a party of six. I found that it tastes even better the next day after the flavours have developed and makes the broth even tastier. If you don't want to make the compressed rice, you can choose to serve it in a bowl alongside a plate of steamed white rice instead. Either way, it's delicious (and don't forget the chilli!).

Soto Daging (Beef Soto) Recipe


800g (28 oz) gravy beef or chuck steak (or substitute with 1 whole chicken if you prefer)
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
1 1/2 cm (1/2 inch) galangal, bruised
1 inch ginger, bruised
1 cinnamon stick
4 cloves
4 cardamoms
1 1/2 star anise
1 bay leaf
6 cups water

Blend together:
5 shallots
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp black peppercorns (ground/pounded)
5 tsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground fennel

Chopped chinese celery or coriander leaves
Crispy fried shallots
Chopped scallions

Accompaniments  (see below for recipe):
Compressed rice
Bean sprouts, briefly blanched with boiling water
Kicap Cili
Sambal (optional)


  1. Bring the 6 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Add beef (leave them whole, do not slice yet), lemongrass, galangal, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, star anise and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and gently simmer for about 2 hours until beef is tender. Strain the stock and put back in the pot. Set the beef aside to cool, then slice thinly into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Heat up some vegetable oil in a pan/wok and fry the ground/blended ingredients for 5 minutes until fragrant. Add this to the strained beef broth and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.Top up with a little water if the broth has reduced slightly from boiling the beef.
  3. Add in the sliced beef and simmer briefly. Add a pinch of MSG if you like.
  4. Place a few cubes of compressed rice in a individual serving bowls, top with blanched bean sprouts. Ladle the soup and beef into the bowls. Garnish with coriander leaves, shallots and scallions. Serve hot with Kicap Cili and/or Sambal.

Recipe for Accompaniments

Compressed rice (Nasi Impit) Recipe


3 rice cups of raw white/jasmine rice (450g or 540ml)
Approx 1 litre water
3/4 tsp salt

  1. Wash rice with water several times and rinse until water is clear.
  2. Place in rice cooker and top up with water. It should come up to higher than the mark for "rice", somewhere between that and the mark for "porridge". Stir in the salt. Start the rice cooker.
  3. When rice is cooked, use a spatula to stir it around and mash it up slightly.
  4. Place in a large muslin cloth (or a large strong plastic bag will do too) and wrap it tightly and firmly to compress it. Lay it out flat in a tray and place a smaller tray on top of it, enough to cover the surface. Press it down firmly. Place weights over the tray to weigh down the rice, for example a heavy electric stand mixer, books, etc.
  5. Leave it for a few hours until it cools down. Then, remove and cut the rice into cubes with a sharp knife dipped in hot water. I reckon you can use a taut piece of string to cut it too.

Kicap Cili Recipe


A handful of green/red bird's eye chillies, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic
Soy sauce
Pinch of sugar


In a mortar and pestle, pound the chillies with the garlic until juices are released. Mix in the soy sauce and add a pinch of sugar. Serve!

Sambal Recipe


10-12 long red chillies, stem removed
4 cloves garlic
3 candlenuts
Sugar and salt to taste


Bring a small pot of water to the boil and add the whole chillies and candle nuts. Boil for 10 minutes. Drain. Roughly slice the chillies and place in a blender with the candlenuts and garlic. Blend finely. Add sugar and salt to taste. Serve!

Simple Indonesian style sambal made with chillies, garlic and candlenuts


LoLy said...

WOW, I simply looooooove your blog :D
I just can't get enough of all these yummy recipes. The only thing that would be better is a button of "Taste" or "Have a bite", lol, just a wish..

Have a fabulous day, xx

Nami | Just One Cookbook said...

Even living in SF, Malaysian or Singaporean food is so limited and I haven't really tried many dishes. I know a lot of them are spicy but I'm not exposed to the cuisines. A dish like this, so pretty and delicious, I wish that I know the flavor already. It just looks and sounds very delicious. Initially I thought this is a noodle soup, but as I read I realized it's compressed rice. I've never seen it before! Very interesting!

Jenny @ Ichigo Shortcake said...

Your photos are absolutely amazing! The recipe is making me drool all over the keyboard. :D

tania @ A Perfect Pantry said...

The photos alone make me drool of your dishes. I've never had compressed rice... I'm going to try it out.

Juliana said...

This dish is so interesting...I never had anything like this. This beef soup with the all the spices in it sounds really tasty.
Hope you are enjoying your week Fern :)

Sonia ~ Nasi Lemak Lover said...

Hmm, you really cook up a very nice beef soto, this is one of the Malay recipe I wanted to try long ago.,

Janine said...

totally agree that the chili is a must have! and you're making me craveeeeee soto so much but the recipe is soooo long and sounds tough to make :x

Fern @ To Food With Love said...

@Janine: It's's just long because my instructions are too detailed! :D Next time I will summarize it into 6 lines :)

Nurliyana said...

I cooked it tonight, was so so wonderful, i was happy to eat it. Being in France far away from home with the snowy winter this is nice recipe to keep me warm and tummy full, even my kids loved it and i had it with ketupat... heavenly