Steamed buns are a pretty big staple of a chinese diet, kind of like the equivalent of eating toast in the US. Plain steamed buns are called mantou. There are many variations of these steamed buns, such as sweet ones filled with red bean paste, savory ones filled with bbq pork (cha siu), or ground pork and vegetables. There are also ones shaped like flowers and topped with scallions, swirled ones, fried ones.

The plain ones are often eaten as breakfast, either by itself, or accompanied with some dried pork. They are also eaten with porridge. I grew up eating these buns but I never tried making my own. They are readily available both fresh and frozen at chinese supermarkets and some american ones like Trader Joe’s and Costco, so I’ve never had much of a desire to make my own .

While browsing some other food blogs, I realized that these aren’t very hard to make at all, especially if you have a stand mixer to do the kneading for you. So for our little Chinese New Year celebration this weekend, I tried making my own. I looked at several recipe before trying one I found on Almost Bourdain.

My dough ended up being a bit too dry. I probably should have added more water, but since this was my first time, I didn’t want to play around with the recipe. Next time I’ll add more water. My dough had a hard time coming together because it was so dry and it was also hard to roll out. Luckily, it still tasted really good.

I am really proud of these. Once steamed, they were just like the ones I grew up eating. And they came out quite pretty too. While I know I can easily just buy these, they taste so much sweeter when you put in your own labor.

Steamed Buns (Mantou) (recipe found on Almost Bourdain with my notes and some changes in the directions)

Yields approx 8 steamed buns

Ingredients
5 g instant dried yeast
250 ml water (next time I will increase this because my dough was too dry)
500 g all purpose flour
25 g caster sugar
1 tsp vegetable oil

Directions
1. Dissolve dried yeast in water in a small bowl. (Since it is instant yeast, you don’t need to worry about the water being warm)
2. Mix all ingredients in the bowl of electric stand mixer. With the dough hook attached with low speed, knead the dough until it’s smooth, around 10 minutes. (If the dough does not come together, add more water.)
3. Gather dough up to ball and let the dough rest for 5 minutes and lay it on a slightly floured surface.
4. Roll out the dough to a 70 cm x 15 cm rectangle.
5. Take one of the long ends and fold up to meet the halfway point. Do the same with the other end. You should view Almost Bourdain‘s site for her good step by step photos.
6. Roll the dough out again to a 45 cm x 25 cm rectangle.
7. Brush the surface with water with a pastry brush.
8. Roll the dough tightly from the longer edge to form a log. Make sure it is very thin and tight so there are no spaces between the spirals.
9. Slice the dough into 8 pieces. My ends had some leftover dough which I cut off and didn’t use.
10. Cut small square slices of parchment paper to place dough on. Put dough on the paper.
11. Spread the buns on the steamer about 1 inch apart since the buns will spread and let them rise for about 20 minutes in a semi warm area. If your kitchen is too cold, you could try turning your steamer on warm to let them rise properly. Pour about 1 1/2 cups cold water in the bottom of the steamer. Cover the steamer, and let them cook for about 20 minutes. I steamed some in my rice cooker steamer and some in a bamboo steamer on the stove. I preferred the steamer on the stove only because my bamboo steamer had more room for the dough to rise and steam properly.


12. Serve while hot. You can reheat them later by sticking them in the steamer again.

   

18 Responses to “Homemade Steamed Buns (mantou)”

  1. Faye — February 2, 2011 at 12:44 am

    Beautiful. Simply beautiful! They also remind me of the ones I ate as a kid.

    They sell these at costco?! What?! In what section? And Trader Joes as well?? What?! Where?! I must look for them next time I’m there.

    Really well done Kirbie! I think your Chinese New Year will be fabulous :)

    • Kirbie replied: — February 2nd, 2011 @ 1:13 am

      Thanks! Well I haven’t seen the plain mantou at Costco but they sell cha siu bao at Costco and I think I remember seeing cha siu bao at Trader Joe’s also. At Costco the cha siu bao were in the meat section (sausages, cold cuts, etc). Wow, I just put up the post and you already read it! =)

  2. shaz — February 2, 2011 at 2:59 am

    They look perfect :) I had also seen these on Ellie’s blog, have been meaning to try it out but too lazy because I can pick them up at the Asian supermarket barely 5 mins away (I’m very lucky). Will keep that water tip in mind when I do make it.

    By the way, thanks for the chiffon cake link, I’ll definitely try it out.

    • Kirbie replied: — February 2nd, 2011 @ 9:16 am

      Yeah, I can easily pick them up at my asian grocery store too so I don’t know if I’ll be making these often. There is a thrill to be able to make your own though. =)

  3. Carol — February 2, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    They are so pretty! I never thought about making my own mantou but I will have to try to make them at home now Thanks for sharing!

    • Kirbie replied: — February 3rd, 2011 @ 1:03 am

      I really never had the desire since they are so readily available, but then I saw how simple the recipes were and had this urge to try. Tasting your own handiwork is so much sweeter though!

  4. Jeannie — February 18, 2011 at 10:58 pm

    Mmmmm…lovely looking mantaos…I like the fact that mantaos are easily available here but it gives one such a feeling of achievement everytime I see my boys biting into those that I had made:D

    • Kirbie replied: — February 20th, 2011 @ 12:55 am

      I really like eating the ones I make more too.

  5. Kevin — June 30, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Thank you so much for the recipe! I have been looking for a good one for awhile. However, I like them super fluffy. So I substituted the water for whole milk, and added double the yeast. I am eating them while typing this! THANKS!

    • Kirbie replied: — July 1st, 2011 @ 8:20 am

      Hmmm I will have to try the recipe with your additions. Sounds good!

  6. Heidi — April 24, 2012 at 7:33 am

    I’ve tried making this twice now – but both times – the dough has been incredibly sticky making it very difficult to roll into the 2 rectangles – I’ve had to use lots of flour on my worktop and still it sticks to it when I’m trying to roll it out.
    Then – when I have finally managed to assemble my buns and have steamed them – they are not white, nor are they soft and fluffy like I expect them to be….they are more like a very dense bread….where am I going wrong??

    • Kirbie replied: — April 24th, 2012 @ 9:12 am

      Hi, I’m sorry to hear you have had problems. I’m not quite sure where your recipe is going wrong. I actually had a problem that my dough was way too dry, so I haven’t experienced it being too sticky. As for the buns not being white, I suspect it is the flour you are using. is the flour bleached or unbleached? I used bleached flour. Also if you add some vinegar into the water when steaming I’ve heard that it makes the buns whiter. I didn’t personally need that but I saw it in other recipes and maybe the flour in the UK is a little different. I suspect your dough is off because of some sort of measurement. Have you had a friend watch you with the measurements? Sometimes I think I follow a recipe right but I actually did a quantity wrong. For instance, the water quantity is in milliliters. One time I posted about my experience with a cookie recipe and how it didn’t work right for me, and then someone reading my blog pointed out that I had converted the butter portion wrong and had doubled it, which explained why my cookies were so greasy and spread so much.

  7. Lokness @ The Missing Lokness — March 1, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Oh wow! I love these buns! I love dipping them in sweetened condensed milk. Thanks for sharing a great recipe. I have to give this a try for sure.

    • Kirbie replied: — March 1st, 2013 @ 3:28 pm

      OOh, dipping them in condensed milk sounds good!

  8. Heidi — March 23, 2013 at 2:54 am

    Hi, I’m not sure….but I will try and attempt them again at some point! ;)
    Probably the flour I’m using but I don’t think we have as much choice in flour as you guys do in the US (eg – I don’t think we have “cake flour” here)
    Thanks anyway!

    • Kirbie replied: — March 23rd, 2013 @ 2:06 pm

      You might try looking at an asian market. Chinese grocery stores here carry specific little flour packages with pictures of steamed buns on it that is used to make these.

  9. VIcky — August 6, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    All the other recipe’s says to proof for 1 hour then shape it, why does this only need to be proofed for 5 minutes, is it because it’s instant yeast?

    • Kirbie replied: — August 6th, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

      Yes, instant yeast reduces the rising time needed

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