The Hangover Lunch of the Gods
Cooking Lab: Chinese - Twice Cooked Pork Stir-Fry

Image by panduh via Flickr

How many times has this happened to you? You go out in the middle of the work week, mostly because of a social obligation. Maybe your friend is performing, and it’s at a bar, and hell, you’re not going to a bar and not having at least something, right? So, you go to the bar, and you have a drink or two before your friend goes on, and you watch the show, and you stick around to socialize and have another drink or two and suddenly, it’s closing time and you have to get home because you need to get some sleep before getting up to go to work in five hours…

Then, you wake up, you hit the snooze button, and you hit it again, and again, and you wake up at about the time you need to run out the door, so you barely have any time to drink enough water to rehydrate and stave off your hangover that you completely didn’t intend to give yourself, because you needed to be out the door five minutes ago, and you rush to work, and the trains are slow and everything is too loud and too bright and you hate every second of your miserable existence because you really should be in bed sleeping this thing off. You’re hungry, you’re sleep-deprived, your head is pounding with every beat of your heart, and all you can think about for the first half of your day is what you’re going to do when they let you out of the cage to feed.

Of course, I’m speaking from personal experience here.

Many folk cures abound for the hangover, ranging from black coffee to “hair o’ the dog” remedies1, but there really are only three things that really work. The first is an over-the-counter pain-killer, the second is large amounts of water–a hangover is simply dehydration after all–, and the third is greasy foods. In other words, the previous three paragraphs have just been circuitous backstory about how I found myself at a Chinese Food restaurant on my lunch break, with a splitting headache and a growling stomach and discovered what may well have been manna from heaven for the weary, hungover soul. I speak of the dish known as Twice Cooked Pork.

Believe you me, I had fully intended to walk into the restaurant, order a big dish of something with noodles and meat and call it a meal, but something about the words “twice cooked pork” screamed at me as I stared down the lunch special menu and slammed down a hot cup of complimentary black tea. So, I ordered it, with a side of egg drop soup, and brown rice. Before long, the waitress put a plate down in front of me that smelled familiar. I picked up my chopsticks, grabbed a piece of meat, blew on it to cool it off, and ate. Then again. And again. I stopped only for gulps of tea, or ice water, and the occasional bit of grease-soaked rice. I began to feel better, alive, awake. As my brain cleared, and my palate worked out the details, I realized that this was little more than a plate of bacon and bok choy, swimming in a sauce that seemed to be a roughly 50/50 mix of grease and red chiles. The description may not win you over, but it is apt. What it lacked in aesthetics, it made up for in comfort.

Of course, it may not have been the food that cured me. It may have been the big glass of ice water, or the four cups of very, very strong tea. It may even have simply been getting out of the office, moving around, and finishing the abridged waking-up process. I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t the egg drop soup, which I left unfinished. I do know, however, that something in the combination of it all helped get me, if not fully functioning, then at least 90% there, which is close enough for government work. Not coincidentally, that’s what I do for a living. As for the Twice Cooked Pork, I doubt I will order it again on my next visit–and I will visit again as said restaurant is a regular dinner stop when a friend of mine is in town–but should I find myself in my lunch hour of need, when time and hydration have failed me, and as long as I’m downtown with at least eight bucks in my pocket, I can find salvation in grease, pork belly, chiles, and complementary hot tea.

  1. Which is just a fancy way of saying “having another drink,” which is rarely the best option. ?

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