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
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
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.