Wednesday, June 5, 2013

My haejangguk (hangover cure soup) ~ Pho!

When I was younger, I had a higher tolerance for alcohol. I could drink until getting drunk without getting sick. But these days (in my 30’s), it is impossible for me to get drunk without getting sick, -painfully sick. I mean making you hate life-body in pain-puke your guts out-SICK! Going over the “happily-buzzed” level just doesn’t seem to agree with me anymore. I can drink a few cocktails and maybe a bottle (the dessert wine bottles usually contain very low mL anyway) of low alkie contented dessert wines. That is my limit these days. I stop drinking after that. I know that when I go over my “happily buzzed” moment, I need to stop…or I’ll pay for it later that night, or even worse, the morning after. Yikes! You know what I totally need after drinking? Haejangguk!

I used to think that Haejangguk was a very specific soup dish. I imagined it to be somewhat spicy, hot, and soothing, cooked in anchovy broth (and it usually is). What I’ve been picturing to be haejangguk has probably been from seeing the hot, spicy looking soup on Korean dramas. Whenever someone gets pissed drunk and hungover the next morning, I always see them being served a soup that looks to be soothingly hot and spicy. I’ve always wondered what this guk (soup) had in it and where I could find some. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I found that that haejangguk is not the name of a particular soup dish, but is rather what is referred to as a “hangover cure soup (in Korean)”. In Korea, it seems like everywhere you go, they have their own version of regional haejangguk.
For me, my favorite haejangguk is pho. The morning after a night of boozing, my body craves and needs pho. My upset stomach, pounding headache, and dehydrated-alcohol-filled system seem to be soothed and warmed after a nice bowl of pho. Even with my “happily buzzed” point, the next morning, I always need haejangguk. After getting “happily buzzed”, I’m not totally feeling hungover, but I’m feeling umm “happily hungover”?? “Happily hungover” without the unbearable pain! But I do feel the uncomfortable dehydration more than anything with “happily hungover”. And pho comes to the rescue. I always get the exact same pho with the exact same stuff, -rare steak and brisket, bean sprouts, Thai basil, extra lime, cilantro, jalapenos, Hoisin Sauce, and Sriracha. I have been eating pho the same way for years. I’ve never really been intrigued to try any different types of pho. Why change what is already sufficiently satiating? I am a creature of habit in that sense.


  1. What's your take on people saying 'well, Asians are missing that enzyme that digests alcohol'. That's what I heard all through college (well, even now). I remember those horrible drinking days that made me sicker than a dog - I'd like to think that I'm much better now as an old fart adult (I'm in my 30s too).

    I jones for Pho once in awhile b/c I'm positive the MSG in mine makes me have weird food coma for the rest of the afternoon. You'll have to tell me why you put Sriracha and hoisin in your pho - sis and I have seen that since we were kids but my parents never did it so I guess that's why we never did it either (even to this day). I always felt like it would blur the beautiful (MSG) broth ...

  2. I have never heard about that one. On the contrary, I used to hear "You're Asian. You must have high alcohol tolerance." Maybe that's more specifically geared towards Koreans since Koreans are big drinkers.

    Some pho places have a sign that says "NO MSG". Not sure how credible it usually is though. The first time I ever had pho was with a Korean FOB. And I just put in what she put in. I didn't like pho at first, but after eating it a few more times, I developed the acquired taste for it. Even until this day, there are some people that say to me, "I bet some FOB taught you to eat pho like that". It's just the way I started eating it and developed the taste for it.

  3. Yeah I bet it's like a right of passage or something. Like I bet if you took someone who's NEVER had pho before , s/he would end up eating pho the way YOU eat pho.

    I totally forgot about how my Korean friends could out drink any Asians. It's bringing back memories of K-town now.

  4. Lol I don't understand how people in Korea can drink until 7 in the morning and then go to work the next morning a couple of hours later, then drink again later (okay maybe these are the hardcore drinkers, but I heard it's not that uncommon). I guess extreme drinking is just part of the culture.

    To me, pho without all the added stuff (that I learned to add from the Korean FOB) tastes bland like something is missing. Maybe I should have gone with a Vietnamese person and learn to eat it the correct way lol.


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