Vuelva à la vida – the Mexican Hangover Cure from the Sea

If you need a Mexican Hangover Cure RIGHT NOW skip down to the recipe.  You have my sympathies.  Vaya con Dios.  May you feel no more pain, brothers and sisters.

Everyone else is welcome to read on.

Our Christmas Eve meal isn’t really a sit-down affair–we put everything on the coffee table in the living room, open a bottle of champagne and everyone helps themselves.  We keep an open door for restaurant orphans–people in the business who either have to work on Christmas or who live too far from family to travel–and our kids’ friends.  The restaurant orphans bring great wine; the kids’ friends bring their appetites and capacity for amazement (You eat that?).  Of late it’s been more of the latter than the former.  No worries, both are welcome.

In keeping with the spirit, if not the exact letter, of an Italian Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes, we had our own abbreviated Feast of Five: oysters, brandade (made from salt cod) and the cold Mexican dish Vuelve à la vida, which contained octopus, scallops and blue crab. We never made it to the littleneck clams waiting in our fridge.  I’m blaming it on the aroma of twin geese roasting for the following day’s dinner.  The Vuelve à la vida was a Christmas Eve first for us.  Otherwise known as the Mexican Hangover Cure, it’s more appropriate for New Year’s Day, but we wanted to be able to to post it before then.  If you skipped to the bottom of the page, you know why.

In English Vuelve à la vida means “Come back to life!”  (Imagine Max Von Sydow’s voice as the priest casting out demons in The Exorcist to get the full effect).  It’s a potent concoction of chilled seafood souped up with with tomato, citrus juice and cilantro.  Instead of the octopus and scallops we used on Christmas Eve, the version below relies on a pre-cooked lobster and shrimp, since we figured that latter were far more likely to be in your fridge than the former.  You can can use just about any cold, cooked seafood with a firm texture.  Protein + fruit and vegetable juice, what could be better after a night of carousing?  Rehydrate and refuel, right?  Okay then, this is our contribution to setting off on the right foot in 2012.  If you’ve put off reading this until New Year’s Day, you do remember where your feet are, don’t you?

The Garum Factory is now six months old.  Thank you for subscribing, reading, commenting–and helping to make our 2011 a great year!  May you have an exciting and prosperous 2012.  Happy New Year!  Ken

  – Vuelve à la vida –

Mexican Hangover Cure

Makes 4 generous brunch portions, or enough for 6 appetizers


  • 1 cup tomato juice or a tomato based vegetable juice (e.g. V-8)
  • ¼  cup ketchup
  • ¼ – 1 teaspoon  finely minced chili pepper
  • ½  cup lime juice
  • ½ cup tangerine or orange juice
  • 1  teaspoon Garum or Asian fish sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic, grated on a microplane
  • 1 pound assorted cooked seafood, cut into 1-inch pieces (Lobster, shrimp and blue crab work well.  If you’re adventurous, add squid, clams, mussels or oysters as well.  You can even add the clams and oysters raw.)
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • 1 teaspoon tangerine or orange zest
  • 3 – 4 scallions, thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup chopped tomato
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro + extra sprigs for garnish
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 avocado
  • ½  lime


  1. Mix the tomato juice, ketchup, chili pepper, orange juice, ¼ cup lime juice, Garum and garlic together.  Chill until cold, about an hour.
  2. Taste and adjust seasonings.  It should be spicy with bold flavors.
  3. Combine the seafood in a bowl with the zests, scallions, tomatoes,   cilantro, the remaining lime juice and the olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Chill until cold, another hour, then proceed to the  next step.
  4. Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit, scoop out the flesh from each half in a single piece.  Cut crosswise into slices ¼-inch thick.  Slice the lime into 4 wedges.  Spoon the seafood into 4  glasses.  Ladle the tomato sauce over the seafood.  Garnish with avocado and cilantro and serve immediately.

Jody Notes:

I first had vuelve à la vida as a teenager with a newly minted driver’s license.  I was en route to Guatemala from Austin Texas in a VW bus with my uncle, aunt and cousins–there were 6 of us–a three day trip.  There were many adventures on that trip: brushing my teeth with coca cola because the water was unsafe to drink; taking my turn driving, a scary experience in a VW bus laden with a summer’s worth of luggage for 6 people, although not as scary as trying to pass a truck on the uphill on a two lane road while dodging on-coming traffic.

But my most vivid memories are of the things I tasted.  We arrived in Veracruz, a city full of activity and LIFE, in the evening and wandered along the water’s edge shopping for shell earrings and other trinkets. The next morning, breakfasting in a bar, we feasted on a seafood cocktail called vuelve à la vida. Spicy seafood hangover cures were new territory for me, especially one called “return from the dead.” 

I was 16, and thrilled. Sweet and sour tomato juice, jam-packed with big chunks of shrimp and crab, and seasoned with freshly squeezed lime juice, chilies and cilantro. I never forgot the taste. Here it is–Happy New Year! 

You may be wondering about the ketchup.  Believe me, it’s absolutely integral.  In one variation I tried improving on things with my own homemade ketchup; in another I omitted it altogether.  Don’t do either.  A decent commercial  ketchup, Heinz, say, or something from Whole Foods if that’s your inclination, is just fine.

This is all about big flavors and well-cooked shellfish.  Use your favorite shellfish, and push the seasonings.  When you mix the tomato base with the marinating seafood, some of the flavors will become muted, so start with flavors a bit out of your comfort zone–then expect them to calm down. 

23 thoughts

  1. Jody,
    Somehow, I came across your blog-I love it. I don’t know if you will remember me, but I worked with you as an intern, at Season’s-Beth Marcus now Kizhnerman. Congratulations on all your success!!! I am still in food but trying to make a shift towards non-profit.
    It was always a pleasure working with you soooooooooooo many years ago.
    Happy, Healthy New Year to you and your family!!!!

    • Beth,
      This is the beauty of cyberspace. So glad you love the blog–we have great fun doing it. Seasons was so many moons ago, but I still see Gordon, Lydia and Susan. What kind of nonprofit work are you interested in? Happy New Year to you. Best, Jody

  2. Do you have to be hungover? This looks so delicious I could eat it every day….. is that telling me I am hungover every day?… hmm.. but I am definitly making this dish this weekend… hungover or not. Thanks Jody and Ken for making me laugh every time this blog comes in to my humdrum grim work email .. ton blog — c’est merveilleux! Have a Happy New Year

    • hey there… no need to have a hangover. i agree about eating this every day. it is yummy, satisfying, healthy and rejuvenating which is why i think it’s known as a hangover cure. happy new year to you and the family. xox j

  3. I made the scones on Christmas morning (fab). You were in our thoughts!

    Happy new year to you both. What a joy to be ‘blogging buddies’ and to spend time with you virtually and in person over the last year. Your blog is terrific, and 6 months must feel like 6 years, but think of how much fun it is! Keep ’em coming!

  4. Just said farewell to our Boston cousins, who are leaving us and our Seattle rain behind. During their visit I mentioned your blog to them (probably while we were nibbling on fig salami) and Deb remembered chatting with Ken at one of your neighborhood playgrounds years ago when the kids were little. Small world, made smaller by blogs and visits.

    Happy New Year. Looking forward to many more installments of The Garum Factory. I like your new layout and the photography has been especially artful recently.

  5. Six degrees and all that… who’d have thought? Your friend must have a remarkable memory, although I still recall the late afternoons spent in the Cambridge Common playground after picking up our son in the Episcopal Divinity School daycare. Thank you for the kind words on the photography. Happy New Year to you and your family – may 2012 be less polarizing and far more nuanced than 2011. Ken

  6. Ok, while this is way too much effort for me to tackle, I must say that these are some of the most beautiful food and food-prep photos I have seen to date. You all are awesome! Now, please create something that would be easy for a non-cook like me to fix ;-)

    • Happy New Year, Rebecca! Check out the eggplant–anyone can do that. Thanks for the compliments on the pics–we’re moving into the time of year in New England where you need to use a flash. If we get one more gray day while we’re blogging I’m going to shoot myself. Cheers, Ken.

    • Ah, the venerable praire oyster, used to do those myself, with lots of horseradish. Now I’m a little bit leery of completely raw eggs–and frankly I can’t remember the last time I was hungover. Thanks for the comments. Ken

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  8. Try raw oysters while you are drinking. I was in Maine last summer, drinking a lot: martinis and champagne in the same night, thinking I would pay for it the next day. Woke up; no problem. The variable: raw oysters every time I drank that much.

  9. Pingback: How the world celebrates New Year – and recovers from it – Crumbs and Petals

  10. Thanks for this recipe, and for using the Mexican name for this dish. I had the opportunity to travel to Mexico City frequently for business. Some of my best memories are the tastes of this dish. Did you get the recipe in Vera Cruz? I look forward to making this.

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