For me, nothing heals and soothes like a bowl of arroz caldo. My first memory of the stuff goes all the way back to when I was a pre-schooler. One time, my dad picked me up from my grandparents’ house in Mandaluyong’s Old Wack-wack area then we made the short drive to the old Good-ah in Greenhills. I remember walking across the small bridge that allows pedestrians access into the restaurant, which, to my 5-year-old imagination, was quite magical. Then my dad and I sat on the counter and he ordered—chicken arroz caldo for me, goto and tokwa’t baboy for himself. I must have loved it, because since then I would ask our yaya to prepare chicken arroz caldo every time I felt sick or when I needed some good coddling.
To this day, I still pine for my yaya’s classic chicken arroz caldo when I’m under the weather (or just feeling blue). Although, recently, I was just as comforted by Goto Monster’s one-of-a-kind Goto Special. The porridge itself was rich, thick, and flavorful. You pick up the essence of a robust, aromatic broth used in cooking the short-grain rice and malagkit—an heirloom recipe from owner Jean Hill’s grandmother.
Jean added her own twist with the toppings and you can be assured that each ingredient was deliberate. Of course, there was tripe—because any self-respecting goto has got to have it. Goto Monster’s was tender and didn’t have the gamey, barnyard taste from sub-standard preparations. Instead of the usual hard-boiled egg, Jean decided it made more sense to use half a salted duck egg. “Plain chicken egg is just as pretty,” she imparts. “But, you don’t really get much flavor from it.” She then adds another dimension with some shredded tinapa, and rounds it all up with the traditional garlic crisps and green onions. What you get is a blitzkrieg of flavors, elevating the homely porridge into something that would induce cravings from any time of the day.
With all of that already going on in the goto, you will probably think that an order of Tokwa’t Baboy is excessive. Perhaps, but you will be missing out on something pretty darn good if you cast it aside. The fried tofu is crisped up and sliced, and then tossed in a bowl of cubed pork and fresh onions. But, instead of the usual cartilage or kasim, you get juicy bits of bagnet—that fabled Ilocano crispy pork dish marinated in sinamak and spices. With the flavorful meat, the sauce does not have to work overtime, though it is a study in sweet/sour balance in itself. No matter how filling the goto is, I will always have space in my stomach for this.
People always wax poetic over their favorite comfort food, and I am obviously no different. Goto Monster offers a jazzed-up alternative to the classic Filipino dish but still gives you that feeling of coming home. Its not trying to be fancy—it’s the same roadside preparation served amidst down-to-earth surroundings. But it is better, and it makes you want more.
P. Ocampo corner Dungon Sts.
San Antonio Village, Makati City
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