“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.”
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.