The Garum Factory

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. 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.