Assorted Livestock 3: Sheep’s head (羊頭)

“The hair on the sheep’s head must be completely removed, any hair that cannot be removed should be burned off with a flame. Wash the head clean, cut it open, boil it in water until soft, and remove the bones. The old coarse skin inside the sheep’s mouth must be thoroughly cleaned. Slice the eyes into two, remove the dark retina and the lens, then chop the eyes into a fine dice.

Simmer the head in the broth made from a fat old hen along with shitake mushrooms, diced bamboo shoots, four liang of sweet wine, and one cup of autumn sauce. If one desires a spicer dish, add twelve peppercorns and twelve stalks of green onion flowers into the cooking liquid. If one desires a more sour dish, add a cup of good rice vinegar.”

雜牲單::羊頭
羊頭毛要去淨;如去不淨,用火燒之。洗淨切開,煮爛去骨。其口內老皮俱要去淨。將眼楮切成二塊,去黑皮,眼珠不用,切成碎丁。取老肥母雞湯煮之,加香蕈、筍丁,甜酒四兩,秋油一杯。如吃辣,用小胡椒十二顆、蔥花十二段;如吃酸,用好米醋一杯。

This has got to be the most serene looking sheep’s head that I have ever seen. Contrast it with this picture and you’ll see what I mean. (Credit: Karols Raymond)

This recipe for sheep’s head look somewhat like a French Calf’s head. I had this once at a country roadside diner in Normandy a few years ago and it was boiled and served like almost like pot-au-feu, devoid of any sauce or distracting flourishes. It was surprisingly good, and albeit the French flair, rather reminded me of the pork trotters and knuckles served with Taiwanese stewed pork leg noodle (猪脚麵線), particularly because of the dish’s mix of skin and meat with a rich broth.

Sheep’s head would most likely taste much stronger due to the flavour of the meat, but I bet the textures that one find in the dish would be rather similar to calf’s head or pork knuckles. If I had to cook this, I would go for Yuan Mei’s spicy version with the peppercorns and green onions, since the former goes very well with lamb/mutton/goat and helps to cut into the “stinkiness” (臊) from this type of meat and the latter gives it the dish a mild sweetness.

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