gio thu vietnamese head cheese

  • 2 pig ears
  • 2 pig tongue 
  • 1 snout
  • 2 hamhock (bones discarded)
  • 2.5 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 ts sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium shallots, minced
  • 2 tbs coarsely cracked peppercorns
  • 1 cup black fungus (whole woodear mushrooms) soaked for about 1/2 hr and drained
  • cooking oil
  • 2-3 empty medium sized round tin cans or cardboard cans and plastic sandwich bags
Rinse the ears, tongue, snout and hamhock and boil in a large pot for about 45 minutes or until the pig ears are soft--but not too soft.  A good way to check is that you can pierce the skin of the pig ears with your finger nails.  Drain and soak in a cold water bath until cool. This keeps the skin of the pork from turning dark and cools it down as well.

Slice the pig ears thinly, about 1/4 inch wide. The tongue may have a thin white layer on top. Shave off this layer with a knife or peeler and slice the tongue similarly. Do the same with the snout--there maybe sections of the snout that has hair still on so you can discard that.  Remove the bone from the hamhock and also cut in small pieces.

In a large nonstick wok or pan, heat a few tablespoons of cooking oil and add the shallots and garlic. Saute until it becomes aromatic and then add the pig ears, snout, tongue, and hamhock.  Add the cracked peppercorns, sugar, and fish sauce and fungus. Continue to saute and stir and you will notice the liquid from meats turning viscous sticky, about 10 minutes or so.

Now prepare your containers (medium sized tin cans or those cheese puff cans also works). Place sandwich bags inside the empty cans and fill the containers--you really want to pack it in and fill it as much as you can--the head cheese should be very tightly packed and full. We used a ziplock bag above, but it's better to use a regular one so you can tie the end with a rubber band.  Seal the bag and place something heavy on top and store in the fridge overnight.  The gio thu will set and you'll have a lovely well composed head cheese!

Cooks note: Sometime a bit of alcohol such as vodka infused with cinnamon, star anise, coriander, fennel is added to the seasoning which we did not use.