I’m a unique beast. I’m not unique in the fact that I become brutally hungover and dehydrated after a night of slinging back vodka-soda after vodka-soda. I think that actually makes me normal – I’m just not afraid to admit it.
What actually makes me unique though? I can’t stomach food when I’m hungover. Most people wake up and crave something decadent. If you’re at brunch, you claim your body is begging for eggs benedict – extra hollandaise. You want that shit to soak up all the booze from the night before and put you into a coma. But once those eggs settle, you’re in for a bathroom trip for the ages that only ends with you scrolling Instagram for twenty minutes until you say to yourself, “Alright, my work here is done,” before using an entire roll of toilet paper. Gross? Yes, but you know what I’m talking about.
I’m unique in that I can’t live that lifestyle anymore. A large meal bogs me down; makes me feel worse (if that’s even possible). I need an IV drip of strong coffee and maybe a bagel covered in cream cheese if I’m really feeling desperate. It’s moderate enough to give my body the resources it needs to recover, but not so over-the-top that I’m going to throw it back up should I do something active later that afternoon.
But one day, by chance, my entire hangover routine got flipped on its head. A friend pitched that we go to a restaurant that seemed stereotypical for any dude in his mid-20s looking for a hangover cure. “It’s like Asian food,” he told me while he finished what appeared to be his hangover cure – a marijuana cigarette, often called a “joint” by the kids these days.
“I don’t know, man, I’m not sure my body can handle Chinese at this point.”
His eyes, while glazed over and visibly stoned, slightly widened and he said one word that I’ll never forget: “Pho.”
Pho wasn’t something I grew up eating. Unsurprisingly, my small midwestern hometown didn’t have any go-to pho spots. It was a new phenomenon to me that I’ve learned to embrace, particularly after a night where wine flows like the salmon of Capistrano. Slurping down the broth and rice noodles was reserved for a night when steak and potatoes just wouldn’t do it for me; for nights when I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and get something different.
Hungover pho, though? Not something I had ever considered.
I shouldn’t have to explain this but I will for the sake of transparency: pho is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, rice noodles, meat, herbs, vegetables, and whatever the hell else you want to toss up in that bitch to make it your own creation.
Dehydration is your hangover’s best friend. It’s what makes you crave a 40-ounce fountain soda, a water, and a coffee all at the same time. After all, it’s not brunch unless there are at least three liquid receptacles in front of you, am I right?
When you put your mouth to that bowl of broth and start sucking down the salty goodness that is the broth, it fills your chest and stomach with the warmth of a blanket fresh out of the dryer on a cold winter’s day. You can feel it move from your tongue to your throat and down into your gut where it will rest for the next one to three hours. Yes, the salt will bloat you, but bloating comes with the territory when you commit yourself to clearing out every Miller Lite the bar has to offer.
If you start cycling in hot sauce and jalapeños, you create a mixture that’s bound to do God’s work on your filth-filled body. Someone once told me that spicy food accelerates the curing of your hangover, but I was too hungover to google its validity so I just accepted it as fact. I’m not ashamed to admit that, but I’m also not averse to piling on as many ‘peños as humanly possible once the waitress sets down a bowl of beef tendon pho in front of me.
Break the mold. Get on your Yelp app and search “pho” to see what establishments are near to your messy apartment. Give pho a chance.
Or, you know, smoke a joint. Doesn’t work for me, but it seemed to work for my buddy who was still hungry after he drained his pho without saying a word between bites. Worked for Anthony Bourdain too, so you know it has to have some truth behind it. .