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7 Hangover Cures From Around the World

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When it comes to hangovers in New Orleans, the beef noodle soup known as “Old Sober” will cure what ails you.

Courtesy of Hardie Grant Books/Sophie Melissa

When it comes to hangovers in New Orleans, the beef noodle soup known as “Old Sober” will cure what ails you.

Author Lauren Shockey’s colorful new book presents hangover remedies found across the globe, in the form of traditional and delicious dishes.

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Perhaps this sounds familiar: It’s Saturday morning, you’ve staggered out of bed, your head is pounding like a drum, and your eyelids feel like iron curtains. How much did you drink last night? More importantly, how are you going to remedy this wicked hangover? In the United States, you might eat a Denver omelet with a side of hashbrowns. But in Mexico, your go-to hangover cure could be a plate of chilaquiles. In Malaysia, kaya toast with half-boiled eggs. In the Czech Republic, a vampire-slaying hot garlic soup.

“Getting a hangover is a universal experience, but how we recover varies so widely,” says Lauren Shockey, author of the new book, Hangover Helper: Delicious Cures From Around the World (Hardie Grant, 2019). Intrigued by the differences, Shockey plunged down the research rabbit hole and came out the other side with a colorful, 175-page book packed with remedies from near (Hawaii, Canada) and far (Bolivia, India), not to mention some curious stats (Moldova and Lithuania are neck-and-neck in their per capita alcohol consumption, tossing back four gallons a year per person) and clever quotes (“A hangover is the wrath of grapes,” said the great Dorothy Parker).

Though Shockey hasn’t suffered a hangover in every country featured in her book, she cast a wide net, talking to friends, friends of friends, and food lovers spanning the globe. As the former restaurant critic of the Village Voice and author of Four Kitchens, a book about learning how to cook in restaurants in New York, Paris, Hanoi, and Tel Aviv, her worldwide Rolodex goes deep.

Here, she walks us through seven of her book’s most intriguing highlights.

Yaka Mein in New Orleans

“This beef noodle soup is also known as ‘Old Sober’—how can you beat that moniker?” muses Shockey. “A blend of Chinese and Creole flavors, the delicious dish is beloved in New Orleans but virtually unknown outside the Big Easy.” Its list of ingredients is simple (beef and beef stock, onion, soy sauce, ketchup, spaghetti, hard-boiled eggs, Creole seasoning such as Tony Chachere’s or Zatarain’s, and Tabasco or Sriracha), but it takes hours to stew. If you don’t have the time or patience to tackle it at home, hunt down Chef Linda, the Ya-Ka-Mein Lady, who serves the soup at festivals throughout Crescent City, as well as at Bywater Bakery during the lunching hour. Beyond that, you can find yaka mein at mom-and-pop convenience stores such as Rampart Food Store, V&T Food Store, and Manchu Food Store. The recipe, Shockey says, “serves as a great example of the unique cuisine and culture which make New Orleans a prime location for both creating and curing hangovers.”  

The meat-heavy tripleta is a Puerto Rican food truck favorite that’s revered for its perceived hangover-curing properties.

Tripleta in Puerto Rico

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As the name suggests, this staple of Puerto Rican food trucks is made with three meats—usually chicken, ham, and beef, though some versions swap in pernil (roast pork). “The meats are all mixed together and topped with crunchy potato sticks and a Thousand Island–like dressing, [making it] a quintessential Puerto Rican hangover food,” says Shockey. When she was traveling in Puerto Rico earlier this year with her husband and son, they stopped by the Tico Tripleta truck in Old San Juan. Though easily accessible from the cruise ship docks, she found the meat-to-bun ratio overwhelming. “I wish we’d had a chance to try the tripleta from El Churry,” she notes, “as that seems to be the must-have tripleta in San Juan.”

Katogo in Uganda

This traditional breakfast dish is made with matooke, a green banana and staple crop in Uganda similar to plantains. The matooke are peeled and cooked whole or mashed, then topped with a beefy sauce made from tripe, intestines, and sweetbreads. Goat offal or beans may sometimes be substituted, but beef is the gold standard. While Shockey’s book doesn’t include a recipe for katogo (tracking down tripe is asking a lot of some home cooks), her Ugandan friend suggested trying it out at Bon Apetit, Chillies, 2K Restaurant, or St. Anthony’s Restaurant in Kampala.

Irish Crisp Sandwich in Ireland and the United Kingdom

“For those mornings when your hangover has a hangover, the crisp sandwich is here to help,” says Shockey. “Beloved across Ireland and Great Britain, the sandwich showcases potato chips stuffed between two slices of buttered white bread.” Really, just buttered bread and chips? “I was skeptical at first, too,” she admits, “but it’s quite tasty, especially made with fresh, sliced bakery bread.”

In Ireland, Tatyo’s cheese-and-onion-flavored chips are the go-to filling; in England, the Brits prefer salt-and-vinegar crisps or pickled onion-flavored Monster Munch. Shockey cautions against home cooks going rogue and using sourdough, rye, pumpernickel, or some other fancy bread. “I would firmly argue that soft white bread is what you need here. You want the slightly bland, inoffensive flavor of white bread to allow the flavor of the chips to shine through. You also want something a bit squishy so you can cradle the chips inside.” (She really thought this one through.) Instead, go to your local bakery and buy their best loaf of white Pullman bread. “There are limited ingredients in this sandwich,” Shockey says. “If you’ve got great bread, you’re already one-third of the way to deliciousness.”

Drank too much port in Porto, Portugal? It’s the francesinha, a meat-, cheese-, and egg-stuffed sandwich, to the rescue.

Francesinha in Portugal

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“When it comes to hangovers, sometimes what we really need most is to drown our sorrows in a showstopper of meat, cheese, and carbs, aka the holy trinity of hangover food,” says Shockey. “Fortunately, the francesinha, a specialty of Porto, is here to help, as it stuffs ham, roast beef, fresh sausage, and linguiça [a traditional Portuguese pork sausage spiked with paprika] between two slices of bread smothered in melted cheese and topped with a fried egg.” Shockey thinks the francesinha is probably a riff on the croque monsieur, but calls it “almost an embarrassment of meaty excess.” If you can’t find linguiça when making the recipe at home, sub in Spanish chorizo, French andouille, or Polish kielbasa. Should you find yourself in Porto, as Shockey’s parents recently did, treat yourself to the five-star version served at Portuguese celebrity chef Jose Avillez’s restaurant, Cantinho do Avillez. “[His sandwich] is gussied up with truffle mortadella, chorizo, pork neck, and truffle sauce!” Other spots in Porto known for their renditions include O Afonso, Capa Negra II, Bufete Fase, Cervejaria Brasão, and Francesinha Café.

Kaleh Pacheh in Iran

“Alcohol is prohibited for Muslims in Iran, but where there are rules, there are also rule-breakers,” says Shockey. “It’s known throughout Iran that kaleh pacheh, which translates to ‘head and hoof soup,’ is a great hangover cure, no doubt due to the high fat and protein content of the dish, similar to the way a greasy spoon lumberjack breakfast would be appealing to an American. The stew features a whole lamb’s head along with lamb hooves, simmered with onions and warming spices until tender and falling apart. It’s served with bread known as sangak, pickles, and a squeeze of citrus to help balance out the fatty, meaty flavors.” The wee hours of morning—like 3 a.m. onward—is when you can find it, “perhaps,”  Shockey sensibly adds, “making it good late-night fare as well as a hangover cure.”

Kongnamul gukbap in South Korea

Part of what inspired Shockey to write Hangover Helper was learning about haejangguk, or hangover soup. “Drinking culture is so prevalent in South Korea that haejangguk isn’t just a single soup, but an entire genre of soups designed to help hangovers,” she says. Each region makes its own version; this particular soup, made with bean sprouts, hails from Jeonju, 121 miles south of Seoul. It’s rich with the amino acid asparagine, which is said to help the liver break down acetaldehyde, the compound known to contribute to hangovers. Many Koreans believe the soup in Jeonju is the best in the country because the water is so clean and the soil is ideal for sprout farming.

The flavors of the kongnamul gukbap recipe Shockey included in her book are fairly mild: an anchovy-and-kelp-based broth, heavy on the sprouts. Some versions omit the short-grain rice or add kimchi; Shockey encourages home cooks to tweak the recipe to taste. If you find yourself in Jeonju and want to give it a go, head to Hyundaiok or Waengi Kongnamul Gukbap.

Lauren Shockey researched the many hangover cures around the globe for her latest book.

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