I seem to have been blessed with the constitution of an ox; it doesn't seem to matter what I drink, I simply don't get hung over very easily. Despite a long and sordid history of drinking, I didn't get hung over for the first time until I was nearly 31, after an ill-advised pub crawl in Hong Kong with a 6'4" Aussie, during which I found out about formaldehyde-preserved beer. (You should have seen me trying to explain what "aspirin" is to a kind hotelier who spoke approximately ten words of English, none of which was "aspirin," "Panadol" or "Advil.")
Sadly, no hangover-beater is as efficient as the cure for that night in Lan Kwai Fong. I was to meet some friends the next morning across the territory, and when they saw me alight, in pain, from the Kowloon line, they immediately took me to a Chinese doctor right there in the train station.
"You drink too much," he said, after a thorough examination, "and you're too fat. Wait here."
Wait, what? The Cantonese have an instant cure for the little (okay, not little) embonpoint I have? Oh, he meant for the hangover. Damn.
Out he came with a small glass of the most unbelievably horrid-smelling, foul-looking elixir I've ever seen, and a small salted plum wrapped in tissue. "ONE SHOT!" he shouted, miming knocking back the vial of I-swear-it-looked-like-dirty-bathwater-or-maybe-nuclear-effluent. I figured that if it killed me, it'd be blessed relief from the vise tightened around my temples.
Glug-glug-glug-GLAAAAACK. My mouth opened involuntarily to allow my tongue, which was trying valiantly to teleport my taste buds out of the range of the liquid, to escape. I began to understand that the key to not suffering sudden acute esophageal reversal was to get it down before the gorge could rise. I stuffed the plum into my mouth while the doctor convulsed with laughter, whirled around to snarl something about Schadenfreude not being particularly professonial... and noticed that the hangover was GONE. I paid the doctor the princely sum of 60 Hong Kong dollars (about $8) and went about my day.
Now that I am older, my body will not accept nights of sixty shots of soju, half a bottle of absinthe or a tour of the rhums agricoles of the Windward Islands without stern reminders of my age the next morning. No hangover cure has ever worked so well as the mysterious hellbrew concocted by a wizened octogenarian in the Prince Edward MTR station, but here are five things that will get you halfway there, and, if you're local, where to get them.
Ask any Mexican, and he'll tell you that it doesn't matter whether this pit-roasted meat (pronounced BEER-ee-uh) with the attendant onion, lime, salsa de aceite and broth is made from borrego (lamb) or chivo (goat). What's important is that you get it down you as soon as you feel the headache start. El Cabrito (1604 W. 1st St., Santa Ana) serves the latter, and they open early, thus allowing you to get about your day.
Something about the beefy, hearty soup with the chewy rice noodles just satisfies in a way nothing else can. The broth will help with the headache, the meat provides needed protein, and you doctor it up with as much chile as you want. The more interesting bits (tendons, etc.) you put in the soup, the faster your hangover goes away. Phở 86 (14576 Brookhurst St., Westminster) is open bright and early and filled with Vietnamese men fighting their own gueules en bois. Keep your voice down, OK?
The Koreans are so convinced they've found the silver bullet for the morning-after blues that the name of their traditional hangover cure means "soup to get rid of hangovers". It's definitely not for the faint of heart, being made of sprouts, congealed ox blood, vegetables and more dwenjang (hot chili-bean paste) than is strictly required, but the burning in your mouth does make you forget about the pounding in your ears. Try it at Seoul Hae-Jangguk (9816 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove).
4. The Full Irish
The people of extreme northwestern Europe aren't exactly known for spicy food, and their link with their offal past is tenuous at best; what they do well is greasy food, which every college kid knows is as integral a part of the drinking experience as the drinking itself. The full Irish (see also: full English) breakfast includes bacon, bangers (sausages), eggs, black pudding, white pudding, baked beans, toast, potatoes and tomatoes. Gallagher's (300 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach) may be a loud party house by night, but in the morning, servers know to speak quietly and leave you alone to wallow in your agony.
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5. Hair o' the dog
That's right, more alcohol. It works--usually. Chances are if you were out painting the town red, you won't be opening your peepers until at least 10 a.m., which is when OC's dive bars start to open. Don't get fancy with sweet drinks; you want beer and a shot and to get the hell out of there. Meander into the Mugs Away Saloon (27324 Camino Capistrano, Laguna Niguel) for your cure, but please try to keep your pants on when the trains pass.