This bowl of goto from Goto Believe tastes both familiar and new.
One of the dishes Filipinos love to eat all year round is a bowl of goto. This type of rice porridge uses ox tripe to give flavor and it’s a go-to comfort food of most Filipinos and many other Asian countries. It’s simple and plain, but a bowl of it can give warmth to the coldest of nights, easily satisfy an empty stomach, and sometimes, even sober one up after an alcohol-filled night. Not so bad for a bowl of rice porridge, right?
Goto is an easy-to-cook dish that’s usually made with glutinous rice, beef or ox tripe, and simmered in aromatic and flavorful spices. Anyone can easily make it at home or you can just go to one of the numerous 24/7 neighborhood gotohan such as Goto Believe.
The eatery name is a wordplay on the 2002 film Got 2 Believe and David Pomeranz’s song Got To Believe In Magic. It’s a witty name for a place that peddles the humble rice porridge, but the same wit can be used to describe Sandra Santiago, the co-owner of Goto Believe.
Sandra Santiago’s love affair with goto started way back when she was just a kid, and possibly destined, because her birthday falls on the same day as World Porridge Day, October 10. Around the months of June and July though, when the rain just seems to pour relentlessly, she would always find herself nursing her loneliness with a bowl of goto. Her love for goto intensified as the years went by. She shares, “Mas love ko pa siya ngayon. Every day, nagiging go-to food ko na talaga siya. I just have to stop eating sometimes, kasi it’s very putok-batok.” (I love it even more now. It’s my go-to food every day. I just have to stop eating sometimes, because it’s fatty!)
Goto Believe cooks their goto with an array of ingredients that make this comfort food sinfully delicious and addicting. The innards that they include are tuwalya (beef tripe), biyas ng baka (beef limb), taba ng baka (beef fat), utak ng baboy (pig brain), and isaw ng baka (beef intestine). They bring all of these to a boil, together with a generous amount of ginger, turmeric, garlic, sinandomeng rice, and the malagkit rice (sticky rice).
You must be thinking: “Okay, but what’s new with that?” Sandra believes it’s their secret ingredients, namely: three innovative foodies, a giant wok, and a variety of ihaw-ihaw (grilled skewered meats).
Vincent Juanta (owner of Kanto Freestyle Breakfast) and Chef Norbert Navarro helped Sandra with marrying the concept of goto and grilled skewers—another Filipino comfort food she commonly eats on the streets or at the public market. She shares, “I want something more [than just plain goto]! I want something epic! I want something na nakakakamatay pag tiningnan mo. Kaya naisip ko, adding the skewers, mas magiging epic yung bowl of goto ko!” (I want something more [than just plain goto]! I want something epic! I want something that can cause a heart attack just by looking at it. That’s why I thought of adding the skewers. In this way, my bowl of goto becomes epic!)
When it comes to Filipino’s infinite love for food and our dapat walang masasayang (nothing shall be wasted) mentality, we managed to turn almost every single part of chicken, pig, and cow into a delicious snack. Goto Believe slathers their 15 skewers with their own homemade marinade, which is a mixture of tomato ketchup, paprika, cumin, and a bit of oil. This special marinade gives these grilled skewers a distinct, smoky, peppery, and sweet taste to complement the simple flavors of goto. Sandra shared that, “Yun’ yung magic for us eh, yung combination of the skewers and the goto. Kapag pinair mo siya, nagkakaroon ng magic sa panlasa mo.” (That’s the magic for us, the combination of the skewers and the goto. When you pair it with each other, you can taste the magic).
Goto Believe serves OMG (Oh My Goto!) Wet bowl (P319), which should be enough for two to three people, and is overflowing with ten types of perfectly grilled skewers: chicharong bulaklak (flower cracklings), bituka ng baboy (pig intestines), isaw ng manok (chicken intestines), Adidas (chicken feet), chicken liver, Xbox (two sticks of pig’s blood), and tenga (pig ears). It’s topped with hardboiled egg, dilis (anchovies), and a serving of crispy wonton wraps to add a little bit of texture to each bite.
It sounds absolutely delicious and heart-stopping, right? Well, according to Sandra, that wasn’t always the case. When she decided to build this goto empire, a few friends questioned her passion for goto. She was in total disbelief when she found out that there are certain people that don’t like the taste and feel of wet goto. Fortunately, Sandra felt determined and challenged, despite the sentiments of the non-goto believers. This is why they came up with the dry goto, which eventually serves as a gateway for skeptics to slowly appreciate the taste of goto.
Goto Believe’s dry goto (P319) is similar to Singapore’s signature Hainanese rice. The grains of malagkit rice and sinandomeng rice are cooked with stock (instead of water). Once the rice is cooked and has absorbed all the flavor from the stock, they bring out this gigantic wok and fry the goto-flavored rice with huge amounts of ginger, spring onion, and fried garlic. The OMG dry goto is also topped with the same skewers and sprinkled with the same toppings as the wet goto, but instead of a hardboiled egg, a crispy sunny-side up egg is included.
Part of the magic of Goto Believe is also about customizing each goto bowl with your preference of egg, toppings, and side dishes. There’s nothing more satisfying than eating your way to the bottom of the bowl and piling a bundle of already-used barbecue sticks on the side. Even Sandra’s 6-year-old son, Dakilang, learned to love goto as much as she does. His go-to goto is a half-and-half of the wet goto and the dry goto and topped with quail eggs. A customer of Goto Believe, which had the same idea as Dakilang, coined it as the chunky goto. Definitely a must-try for all goto fans!
As Sandra would say, “Bahala sila i-overload [yung bowl of goto nila with toppings], or simple goto lang, or goto fried rice, plain lugaw, bahala sila. Make it epic!” (It’s up to them if they want to overload [their bowl of goto with toppins]! Get a simple goto, plain congee, it’s up to them! Make it epic!)
Goto Believe is located at 640 San Rafael Street, Mandaluyong.