I’ve had plenty of hangovers while living in Seoul. Hell, I’ve had plenty of hangovers everywhere I’ve lived. But there’s something about drinking soju that really takes the next day’s headache and nausea to another level.
Thankfully the same people who created this evil alcohol also created a remedy for its wrath: haejangguk (해장국).
Often called “hangover soup,” haejangguk refers to all kinds of guk (soup) eaten as a hangover cure in Korean cuisine. The most popular variety seems to be a thick stew consisting of meaty pork spine, spinach, cabbage, onions and congealed ox blood in a spicy beef broth.
Sound like something you want to eat after a long night of drinking?
Me neither. And a few weekends ago, while curled up at the edge of the bed, my friend’s suggestion to do so had me dry heaving into a trash can.
“Congealed ox blood?” I said. “Whatever happened to saltines and Gatorade?”
“Get over it and get dressed,” my friend said to me. “You’re a food blogger now. Plus, saltines are for college kids.”
Fifteen minutes later I found myself in front of the haejangguk restaurant, staring at the huge bubbling pots of soup in the window. And about an hour after that, I found myself able to walk upright, without the giant sunglasses and painful expression on my face.
Was it the miracle soup? The all-powerful kimchi? Or was it just the fresh air?
I don’t know. And I don’t care. I just know that the haejangguk was much better than a box of flavorless white crackers.