Barely managed to survive the alcohol-soaked parties of the New Year season? How many drinks have you thrown back, and how much food have you shoveled down the morning after to ward off headaches and sickness? The type of alcohol people consume may differ from one country to another, but the search for food to combat the unpleasant aftermath is an experience that transcends national boundaries.
In Korea, there is haejang-guk, which simply means “hangover soup.” Among the many kinds of haejang soups, kongnamul-guk, or bean sprout soup, is the most popular. It can be served with a bowl of rice on the side, or in the form of gukbap, with the rice served in the soup. People usually season kongnamul-gukbap with saeu-jeot, salted fermented shrimp, and add Korean chili powder and minced green onions. Even deeply inhaling the fragrant steam rising from the bowl is enough to begin soothing a roiling stomach. Sometimes, kongnamul-gukbap is accompanied by a half-boiled egg, which gives the soup’s flavor a further boost.
How do people of other countries recover after a long night of drinking? In China, congee, rice porridge, is the most favored hangover remedy. It’s so popular in Hong Kong that it’s sometimes referred to as the “national breakfast,” and tourists can enjoy it wherever they go. Congee is a simple dish that can be made by stir-frying rice with sesame oil, then boiling and simmering it for hours. It is more like a gruel than a porridge, yet this simple dish becomes a good hangover remedy or hearty breakfast when topped with beef or fish.
In Germany, a nation known for its love of beer, rollmops, or pickled herring fillets, are widely eaten to cure hangovers. Salt- or vinegar-pickled herring fillets are wrapped around onions or cucumbers and held in place with bamboo skewers. Herring is said to be best suited to beating hangovers as it helps restore damaged liver cells, being rich in methionine. Rollmops are also popular across Northern Europe.
In Russia, rassolnik soup is the dish of choice to cure hangovers. When added to soup, rassol, the salty brine in a jar of pickled vegetables, prevents dehydration after a night on the town, expediting the excretion of alcohol from the body. If you don’t have pickles on hand, you can make a juice with the ingredients in a blender and drink it for similar effects.
As we have seen, a common theme across all hangover remedies is their simplicity. This is perhaps because the pressing need to alleviate oneself of the symptoms outweighs any other less pressing concerns. These days, however, the psychological effects of eating particular dishes seem to do more in beating hangovers than the ingredients themselves, as many people have taken to eating fast food or instant foods to ease their hangovers. While not known for their health benefits, one can only wonder if the calming effects these comfort foods have on people allow their body to better process all the lingering alcohol in their system. Whatever their secret, if there’s one thing better than a night of drinking, it’s tucking into a feast the morning after.
Written by Kim Shinyoung
Illustrated by Jeong Hyoju