Cambodian/Khmer Pork Head

Contains:  Offal, added sugar.  Is:  Gluten-free, nightshade free, dairy free, paleo. 

All right, this is half a head.  It came with my late summer’s pork share – well, it was indeed optional, but I wasn’t going to reject a head out of hand.   (Umm?)

My lamb post follows today:  Roasted Lamb Head.

pork, cambodian, khymer, pork head, offal

This required a large platter. By the way, if you are squeamish about looking at pork heads, this is the most innocuous looking photo in this post. Just a fair warning.

I came across a YouTube video, and decided to create this Khmer / Cambodian recipe.  I ended up adapting it further in order to spice it up some more as the boiling portion of seasonings really didn’t impart a LOT of flavor to the meat.  Some… but not enough.

recipe, cambodian, khmer, pork head, pig head, lemongrass, galangal

Okay, the simmer is innocuous, as far as photography goes.

This head came brainless – if you do get the brain tissue, remove and cook separately for a lot less longer.  (Or, discard.)  But everything else was there.

Cooking the heads of livestock that you are otherwise going to be eating anyway is not a bad idea – and this meat doesn’t taste “off” or “out of the ordinary” from the rest of the porker.  Probably excluding the eye – which is edible, but due to issues with my own eyes, I just don’t eat that part.*  The head is also more fatty than most of the rest of the pig, but there are ways to minimize this.  And yes, the loose fatty parts I also discarded.

The sugar is added to help the skin crisp up.

Cooked Autumn 2019.

Prep Time:  15=10 minutes.
Cook Time:  1 hour simmer, total 2 hours for roasting half a head.
First Rest Time: 2 hours.
Final Rest Time: 20 minutes.
Servings: 3-4, but see the discussion.
Cuisine: Cambodian.
Leftovers: Yes.  Refrigerate or freeze.

Cambodian/Khmer Pork Head 

  • 1/2 pig’s head, cleaned preferably by your butcher.
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed.
  • 1 sliced shallot
  • 1-2 slices of galangal (I didn’t have fresh, so I used two teaspoons of powdered).
  • some lemongrass (I used about a tablespoon of dried).
  • 2-3 Thai lime leaves, crumbled  (I am actually growing my own Thai lime, so was glad to use it!)

For the roasting part:

  •  2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 2 Thai lime leaves, broken up.
  • 1-2 clove minced garlic
  • 2-3 teaspoons galangal powder
  • 1.5 tablespoons finely chopped lemomgrass.

Thaw your head.   Well, it’s head…  Okay, okay, I’ll stop now, before I get too offal…   If the skin of your pig’s head has hair, get a manual disposable razor and shave it off.  Mine didn’t have such.

Place the head in a large, tall cookpot.  (I use the one I have used for lobster, for hot water bath canning, for sous-viding, and for large multi-person pots of chili or stew)

Add all the seasonings listed prior to the first paragraph break in the ingredient list,  to the water.

Bring to a boil, reduce to an active simmer, cover, and let it cook for about an hour.

Remove the head, carefully (it’s hot), and place on a rack over a baking sheet.

Using the tines of your fork, pierce the head in many places, allowing fat to drain out. Turn on its side to best facilitate this drainage.

Let sit on the counter for two hours, so the skin can dry.  This will help the skin to crisp up in the next cooking stage.

Pre-heat oven to 400 F/  205 C, to be ready when the two hour drying time is up.  I patted the skin dry further with a paper towel.

Here is where I diverged importantly from the YouTube recipe, as I didn’t think there’d be enough seasoning adventuring within the meat without doing this –  (in addition to my only having half  a head available):

Add most of the roasting part of the ingredients over the skin-side top of the head, mixed together as a rub.   Cover the ear with foil to keep from burning excessively.  Roast for 1 hour.  (If you do have a whole head, you can go for two hours.)

Pull out of oven, flip the head half over, then add the remainder of the roasting rub over the inner part of the head (which will now be the top portion).  Return to oven for another 30 minutes.

Pull back out, and reposition the half-head so that the skin is on top, and return to the oven for a final half hour, using drippings to spritz over the top as you do so.

Pull the head out of the oven, allow to rest for 15-20 minutes, and then enjoy.  The skin is crunchy and should be edible.  There are somewhat large areas of just fat, which I discarded, but there was a lot of jaw and cheek meat, plus the tongue.  I’ve reserved the bones and connective tissue for a future pork stock.  I did get meat for four meals out of this half-a-head:  but note that two of those were breakfast (smaller quantity).  This is NOT something to serve at a dinner party – not necessarily because of any squee factor but because of the sheer impossibility to get even servings for all meat textures to all your diners.  And this eating off the bone, different parts of meat…

recipe, cambodian, khmer, pork head, pig head, lemongrass, galangal

A crispy half-a-pork head, cooked khmer style.

This is the link to the video.

 * Probably as a result of eye surgery when I was five years old, I cannot watch people put in or take out contact lenses, much less use them myself.  When we watched those health and safety videos for work, I had to avert my own when that part came on – but I could watch all the rest.  When I get those eye dilation drops to check for glaucoma, we’ve come to the realization that tilting my head back so that gravity can put the drops down there into the eyes – that this works.  When I had to give a cat medication for pink eye, fortunately I convinced myself that her eyes were totally different than human, and could do it – But I’m just not going to eat eyes…

Something I don’t eat????  Yes.  That’s one, and the only one from “Just Can’t Go There” when referring to mammalian food sources, rather than “Just Don’t Like Something About It”.

Okay, here we go with several half-head photos.

pork head, recipe, khmer, cambodian, lemongrass, galangal, lime leaf

The head has been simmered. It lays on the rack, ready for having fat drained from it, via fork punctures.

pork head, recipe, khmer, cambodian, lemongrass, galangal, lime leaf

Ready for the roasting stage. The head has received its rub, and the foil to protect the ear.

pork head, recipe, khmer, cambodian, lemongrass, galangal, lime leaf

Flipping the head during the roasting process. The fork assisted.

pork head, recipe, khmer, cambodian, lemongrass, galangal, lime leaf

Yes, I ate a portion, and I had three more portions to go.

This is an excellent and varied bit of meat.  I enjoy the idea of nose-to-tail eating.  By the way, cheek meat tastes a lot like pork shoulder meat.  Tongue tastes like pork in this animal, but has a different texture than regular muscle meat – but it is not at all off-putting.  As noted, I did discard blatant wads of fat.  (I probably should have rendered that down for my chickens, however…)

recipe, cambodian, khmer, pork head, pig head, lemongrass, galangal

Linked up at:  

Full Plate Thursday.  
Fiesta Friday (co-host Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau).
What’s For Dinner – Sunday Link-Up


About goatsandgreens

The foodie me: Low/no gluten, low sugars, lots of ethnic variety of foods. Seafood, offal, veggies. Farmers' markets. Cooking from scratch, and largely local. The "future" me: I've now moved to my new home in rural western Massachusetts. I am raising chickens (for meat and for eggs) and planning for guinea fowl, Shetland sheep, and probably goats and/or alpaca. Possibly feeder pigs. Raising veggies and going solar.
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10 Responses to Cambodian/Khmer Pork Head

  1. Pingback: Lamb’s Head (Yes, It’s a Thing) | Of Goats and Greens

  2. As soon as I saw the pic at Fiesta Friday I knew it would be you! I don’t know anyone else with both the creativity and the sheer bravado to cook a pig’s head, lol!! While I have had head cheese (and it was a fave of my Grandma) I gotta be honest here; I might not be running down to Hy-vee to make this, lol!!!

    Great post and a fun read, and the flavors do sound incredible!! I am so happy to hear about galangal powder!! It’s so hard to find galangal here in Minnesota – even for some reason in the Asian markets I’ve been to.

    I can’t help it, gotta end with “here’s looking at you, kid”

    Thanks for sharing with Fiesta Friday this week!


    • THanks, Mollie! I found the galangal powder at Penzey’s. I can find whole galangal at the Asian markets here in New England. (PS, in a couple months I’m scheduling in bison tongue….)

      • Tongue I have had, just not bison! But that was in tacos. When my Mom tried to serve us tongue, we kids were all ready to scarf it down when my older brother got “suspicioius” and asked what kind of meat it was, lol!

  3. I happen to know people who are obsessed with pork heads! They keep sending me pictures! “They” happen to be my brother in law. I’m not opposed to pork heads, actually. Just don’t ask me to cook them, lol.

  4. My grandmother used to make headcheese – and I’ve had cheeks – Thanks for sharing at the What’s for Dinner party. Have a wonderful week.

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