5 tried and tested hangover cures from around the world
If you need some hints on how to get over the pain of the morning after the night before, these international dishes might just be the solution
The new year is a time for fresh starts, or at least good intentions. Sometimes January 1 (and several of the days that follow) can be less productive than planned because of overindulgence leading to hangovers.
Mankind all over the globe has grappled with the morning-after effects of booze since our ancestors first gobbled up that overripe fruit that made them feel so good – and then woke up feeling like prehistoric garbage.
These days, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the number of high-tech products that claim to cure or prevent the dreaded hangover. There are patches, pills and little bottles of elixirs to swig. Plus unpronounceable ingredients and marketing that uses the lingo of both start-up culture and the commercial “wellness” cult: “Win the morning!”
With so much slickly packaged snake oil around, perhaps this holiday season it’s better to stick to the time-tested remedies that people have been serving up for centuries, all around the world, to comfort their pounding heads and cotton-swaddled tongues. And perhaps we’ll learn a little lesson that’s timely to the beginning of a new year: you know, we really are all in this together.
Despite the colour, which might have your taste buds expecting a citrus quaff akin to a Sunkist, the drink actually delivers a flavour that’s closer to ... bubble gum? It’s sweet, and there is something vaguely medicinal about it that maybe convinces you that it’s working.
Maybe it’s the quinine, a common ingredient in tonic water that is listed as a flavouring in Irn-Bru. (In Scotland but not in the US version there’s also ammonium ferric citrate, a food additive that’s a source of iron.) With sugar and caffeine for energy and stomach-settling bubbles, it does seem like it could be a soothing tonic.
Erik Neff, a government contractor from Alexandria in the state of Virginia, says he first encountered the orangey concoction when attending Scotland’s University of St Andrews in Fife. Determined to experience the culture of his temporary home, he tried the drink that so many of his classmates propounded. “They are very proud of their food and their sports and their culture, and they are happy to share,” he said. His Irn-Bru verdict? “I love it, actually.”
Neff claims it’s a solution for any situation where he might need a jolt, whether it’s fighting jet lag, recovering from illness – or a rough night. “There’s a pickup quality to it,” he says.
There’s something counter-intuitive about the idea that a queasy hangover would be eased by a hunk of dense, oily fish encasing mouth-puckering pickled onions and cornichons, but traditions exist for a reason, and the snack is strangely curative. Bracing, even.
Unlike many other purported fixes that involve heavy starches, it doesn’t weigh you down. And hey, at least you’re distracted from that headache, if only by a strange thought: you know, a martini would go great with this.
Yakamein (a.k.a. Old Sober)
Some say that the soup, so known for its booze-taming effects that it’s also called “Old Sober”, was introduced by Chinese immigrants who came to the city to build railroads in the mid-1800s. Whatever its origins, the dish has taken on a host of influences: its main ingredients are beef and beef broth doused with Cajun spices, soy sauce, ketchup and hot sauce, all enriched with plain old spaghetti noodles.
It has since been adopted by revellers looking for sustenance. Attendees at alcohol-soused festivals and parades know to look for Linda Green, the self-styled “Ya-Ka-Mein Lady” for a bowlful. Her recipe is relatively easy to make at home, but just make sure you plan ahead, because the last thing you want to read in a recipe when your head is pounding is “simmer for 3 to 4 hours”.
At his downtown restaurant, one such option is the yookgejang, a complex concoction of beef brisket, threads of egg, spring onion and bean sprouts, all infused with fiery hot beef broth.
The key to a good hangover soup is the spicy broth, he says, which is believed “to help you sweat out the toxins”. Even more traditional haejangguk might include blood sausage, he says, which is thought to provide extra nutrients to cure a hangover and to settle a roiling stomach. Which all sounds like a lot of magical thinking by people with early meetings to make.
Lee is a believer, though: “I can attest to it,” he says.
At Republic Cantina in Washington DC, the eggs-and-veg scramble is topped by crushed chips, pico de gallo, tangy cotija cheese and avocado slices.
Whether it’s the chemical reactions happening or just the comforting hug of a breakfast of carbs, eggs and heat (and maybe even a michelada or Bloody Mary, if you really need some extra help), it somehow seems to do the trick. Republic co-owner Sam Lipnick has seen it work but thinks there’s also an intangible component that goes into the remedy that’s more than the sum of its parts.
“It makes you spiritually feel better,” he swears.