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Just what the doctor ordered.

Hangover Helper: The Pulled Pork Tamal from Playa in Los Angeles

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[Photograph: Noam Bleiweiss]

Who are your breakfast superheroes? Who, in a pinch, can you count on to get you through the bad times, and lift you up when you need it most? They are the best that this world has to offer in the way of pre-11a.m. warm meals on a plate. They are: pork and eggs.

Bacon? Breakfast sausage? A quick chorizo scramble with a load of cheese? All perfectly acceptable options. But when you're being dangled off the corner of your apartment building by that nefarious villain known as Hangover, are you going to cry out for Two Strips of Plain Bacon to help? Or wouldn't you rather call his porkier, tastier cousin: Pulled Pork. And guess who Pulled Pork brought with him? Sunny-Side Up Eggs. Turns out, they're here to kick a little morning keister.

If that extended and wobbly superhero metaphor didn't clear things up, I'm talking about the Pulled Pork Tamal, a weekend-only brunch item from Los Angeles Latin cuisine kingdom Playa. Most nights, people come for the stiff cocktails and creative riffs on popularized Hispanic dishes. But on weekends, Playa heads for the nearest phone booth and emerges as a phenomenal mid-morning eatery.

Back to the pulled pork tamal, a $12 twist on the popular banana-leaf tamales of southern Mexico and Central America. Normally, you can head to the right street corner in certain parts of LA and $12 will get you a bag full of steamed, tender tamales, large fist-sized mounds of masa, holding untold treats inside. But this single iteration, steamed and served atop its own wrapper, is worth every dollar you spend. The hefty tamale is a work of subtle art, with cracked corn masa moist enough to pull away in forkfuls but not so mushy that it falls apart. The interior is a cavern of pulled pork, deeply satisfying in a salty, earthy, lightly spiced way, with tender bites and a precious few with a bit more texture.

Then there are the dual sunny-side up eggs, a dynamic duo of just-fried edges and yellow, bulging yolks. They are perfectly gooey and dangerously delicious on their own, but when paired with the pulled pork tamale they're basically unstoppable. Oh, and did I mention the slightly spicy hot sauce? It'll add just a little pop to your morning. Putting a fork through every layer at once immediately causes this breakfast plate to form like Voltron and kick even the most intergalactic hangover back to the tequila wormhole it crawled out of; it's a hero of a dish.

Playa

Brunch from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday only
7360 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles (map)

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