It’s a self-induced ailment that transcends culture and language barriers. The hangover.
Whether you’ve binged on sake or baijou, the result is too often the same: pounding headache, mouth like a Russian wrestler’s jockstrap, urge to spend the day close to something white and made of porcelain.
Though hangovers might be universal, cures for the brown bottle flu are not.
Some boozers swear that a greasy breakfast does the trick. But if you find yourself in an Asian city New Year’s Day with nary a greasy English fry-up in sight, these local hangover cures should make you feel half-human in no time.
Nothing like a big bowl of gruel to pick you up off the floor. What is it: On the surface, congee is a pretty simple dish. Chinese rice porridge. Gruel, if you really want to get fancy.
But it takes on many variations throughout the country. You can add almost anything to your congee, such as salted duck eggs, lettuce and various meats — just not all at once.
Why people think it works: Congee has long been considered a comfort food for people who simply aren’t feeling well, which aptly describes anyone hungover.
Being a soupy solid, it tackles both causes of hangover by rehydrating and soothing irritated stomach lining.
Unlike some popular hangover cures, congee is easy to swallow when you’re in rough shape and tastes pretty good with the right flavorings.
Where to find it: While not quite as easy to find as other Chinese hangover cures, such as tea or ginger, the best bet is to head for the nearest dim sum restaurant (though many Chinese restaurants carry it).
Japan: Green tea
No need for Powerade when you’ve got green tea. What is it: The most Japanese of all beverages. A bitter yet refreshing drink served hot or cold.
Why people think it works: Green tea is high in antioxidants and will help detoxify an abused liver a lot better than the self-destructive “the hair of the dog that bit you.”
It may also help with headache and nausea. At the very least, its stimulating side effects will allow you to walk upright like a triumph of evolution so you don’t hit that business meeting looking like you just rolled off the couch with bits of popcorn in your hair.
Be warned: most Japanese green tea also contains a fair amount of caffeine, which won’t help someone who just wants to sleep off a hangover.
If you’re not afraid of the funky, drop a few umeboshi (plum-like ume fruit soaked in sea salt) into your green tea. It’s super-salty and sour, but said to aid in restoring all those eletrolytes you killed off the night before.
Where to find it: Green tea is available in cold form pretty much everywhere and incredibly easy to brew on your own, even with a nasty, grating hangover. Chances are, your hotel room will have a few green tea packets next to the hot water kettle.
South Korea: Hangover stew
Blood of ox beats hair of dog. So say many Koreans. What is it: You know you’re in a country of late-night boozers when a dish is named in honor of the ailment it’s designed to eradicate.
Korea’s haejangguk actually means “stew to cure a hangover.”
Though versions vary throughout South Korea, the usual bowl of haejangguk is made from a beef broth, with cabbage, bean sprouts, radish, egg and chunks of congealed ox blood. Mmmm. Guess which is the secret ingredient?
Why people think it works: The deeply satisfying taste does wonders to kick-start a sluggish brain in the morning, while the thick, hearty ingredients soothe soju-irritated stomachs.
The only challenge is convincing yourself to take that first bite. It’s not pretty to look at, what with that big raw egg yolk staring you in the eye like a disapproving grandmother.
Where to find it: Haejangguk can be purchased in the morning from street vendors all over Seoul.
If in doubt, look for the nearest cart surrounded by tired, sluggish Koreans in need of a pick-me-up on the way to the office.
Thailand: Spicy noodle soup
Kway tiew nahm sai (clear noodle soup) is made with pork bones, radish, cilantro, sliced pork, pork balls, bean sprouts and Chinese kale. What it is: Almost every recipe for pad kee mao (Thai drunken noodles) posted online comes with the claim that this simple dish is a good hangover cure.
But according to locals, pad kee mao is best eaten while you’re in the process of drinking. Not after.
Instead, spicy noodle soup is what cures what ails you the morning after.
It comes in many forms. Yellow noodles. Glass noodles. Wide noodles. Noodles topped with beef, fish balls, pork, chicken, pigs blood or duck.
And all are made with different flavors of broth, including the all-powerful tom yum.
Why people think it works: Many Thais claim extra spicy soup helps freshen them up by letting them sweat out some of those nasty booze toxins and shake that queasy hangover feeling. The hearty ingredients, on the other hand, tame the angry beast crying for attention in your stomach.
For some, the idea of slurping a bowl of spicy liquid when your stomach lining is already irritated is about as appealing as knocking back another five shots of tequila.
Fortunately, at Thai noodle stands you can add your own spice from a dispenser on the table (few travelers can handle the spice intensity the locals can).
Where to find it: Hit up the nearest street noodle stand. If you’re really desperate, any Thai convenience store carries cups of instant noodles, which will do the trick if you’re in a hungover pinch.
More on CNN: A noodle soup lover’s guide to Bangkok
Hong Kong: Ginseng tea
That’s going to make a lot of tea. What is it: American ginseng, sliced up and steeped in hot water.
Why people think it works: The mildly bitter root calms the body by purging excessive Yang, or hot positive energy, from the body.
Chinese elders will also tell you that the herb generates fluids and curbs thirstiness –- perfect for hangover dehydration.
Where to find it: Ginseng tea is widely available in grocery stores and tea shops. Or just make it yourself.
All you have to do is simmer fresh slices of American ginseng in hot water. To mellow out the mildly medicinal flavor, mix in some honey.
India: Coconut water
Even if you’re not hungover, coconut water is refreshing. Just ask Indian star batsman Suresh Raina. What is it: Not to be confused with coconut milk, coconut water is the liquid inside unripened coconuts.
Why people think it works: Again, it’s all about electrolytes. Many Indians swear by coconut water as a hangover cure, as it’s full of nutrients and potassium, making it fantastic for rehydrating.
Best of all, it’s natural and healthy.
Where to get it: Throughout the tropics in Asia, plenty of vendors can be found on the streets selling fresh, young coconuts.
But these days you can get it anywhere. Though scientists say its benefits aren’t fully proven, big companies are capitalizing on the coconut water health trend by bottling it for convenience store shelves.
Got a favorite hangover cure? Share your morning-after secrets in the comments box below.
Originally posted November 2012, updated January 2014.
- Supreme leader Kim Jong-un hands skiers of North Korea a huge lift
- My favourite pool: Palm Beach rockpool, NSW