Chinese Steamed Buns also named as mantou(馒头) is a basic staple in northern part of China and served in every places of China not just the northern part.
In the other parts of China, Mantou is mostly served as breakfast in restaurants and food carts.
Mantou is made with flour usually all-purpose flour, yeast and water. There is no filling used. However baozi—Chinese steamed pork buns are also called as Mantou in some places of China especially in Northern China. This is a basic recipe of homemade Chinese steamed buns. But now there are many variations about mantou in China for example wholemeal mantou, milk mantou and sweet potato mantou.In the past days, people are making mantou totally by hand. But now we have stand mixer to help knead the dough. I introduce the hand-making way in case you may want to have a try.
How to make the basic dough for Chinese Steamed Buns
Prepare warm water around 35 ℃ and melt the sugar in. And mix the yeast with the water. Mix well and set aside for around 5 minutes. If you do not want sugar, just skip it. I strongly recommend measure the water and flour firstly. And ratio should be around 1:2 for water :flour.
Prepare the flour in a large bowl. Pour the water with yeast slowly to the bowl with flour and stir with a chopstick.
Then knead the flour into smooth and soft dough. At the very beginning, it might be a little bit sticky. Or you can add all the ingredients and knead for 8-9 minutes in a stand mixer.
Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for around 1 hour or until the paste ball doubles in size. This process can be done by mixer. Since it is winter on my side, I put it in a oven and using fermentation function to shorten the time.
Preheat the oven to around 35 degree C for fermentation. After the oven works 5 minutes, turn it off. And leave the bowl in. Please note that in summer, the oven is not needed. The high temperature will kill your yeast. Just place the bowl in a warm place and wait until the dough double in size.
Tips about how to judge the dough is fermented well? There are two ways.
Firstly place the dough in warm place until 1.5 or 2 times in size (don’t over ferment the dough, otherwise you will need long time to get the air out). Poke a hole with finger and the dough does not collapse.
Forcefully re-knead the dough, slightly dust the operating board and punch the air out. The surface of the dough needs to be smooth again.
Then on a slightly floured kitchen board, roll the dough into a long log around 1 inch in diameter or any size you want.
Then remove the two ends and use a very sharp knife to cut the log to smaller pieces (around 2 cm wide). Try to keep the original shape.
Then brush some cooking oil on the bottom of the buns and begin to steam. Add cold water to your wok or steel steamer. Place the buns and then cover the lid and rest for 10 minutes in summer and around 20 minutes in winter or until the bun becomes fluffy again.
Use high fire firstly and then lower the fire after you see the vapor coming out from the lid. Turn off the fire and wait for around 5 minutes before serving and enjoying. I highly recommend using a Bamboo Steamer to steam Chinese steamed buns or Chinese Baozi. They can bring a bamboo armoa to the food. You can try to find some in local stores or purchasing from Amazon Joyce Chen 26-0013, 10-Inch Bamboo Steamer Set.
If you get an excellent steamer, there are other Chinese steamed recipes to try.
1. Xiao Long Bao Recipe—Chinese Steamed Soup Dumplings The dough for Xiao Long Bao does not need yeast and fermentation.
2. BBQ Pork Buns
3. Chinese Sugar Buns with sesame and brown sugar as filling.
4. Vegan Baozi with spicy tofu as filling.
5. Chinese sweet potato buns — to add some excellent purple color for your buns.
6. Healthywheat buns–mix flour with wheat flour.
Basice Chinese Steamed Buns
- 300g all-purpose flour
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 150g water or 20ml more if needed
- a tiny pinch of salt (around 1.5% of the dough)
- Prepare warm water around 35 °C and melt the sugar in. And mix the yeast with the water. Mix well and set aside for around 5 minutes. If you do not want sugar, just skip it.
- Place salt and flour in a large bowl. Pour the water with yeast slowly to the bowl with flour and stir with a chopstick.
- Then knead the flour into smooth and soft dough. At the very beginning, it might be a little bit sticky. Or you can simple resort to a stand mixer.
- Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for around 1 hour or until the paste ball doubles in size.
- When the dough is double in size, get paste ball out and punch the air out.
- Then roll the dough into a long log around 1 inch in diameter or any size you want.
- Scatter some flour on your board and cut the log to small sections you like. Brush some oil on the bottom of each bun. Place them in lined steamers one by one (leave some gap among each one as they expand after steaming.)
- Cover the steamer and set up in a wok with enough cold water. Rest for around 10 minutes (summer) to 20 minutes (winter). This is called second proofing and can let the bun be softer.
- Use high fire to bring the water to a boil and continue to steam for around 20 to 25 minutes (depending on the size of your buns).
- Remove off the fire and wait for around 5 minutes before opening the lid. Serve warm or re-steam to soften before serving.
When lifting the cover when the buns are steamed ready, do not drop any water on the buns.
Adding some salt can help to support the gluten.
I get lots of the feedback about this recipe. It turns out perfect for some of the readers,but there are also failed reports and request about figuring out what’s wrong. So I collect some of the top topics and share my own experience.
FAQ about perfect Chinese steamed bun
1. What about the dough smells sour?
Sour taste indicates that the dough is over-fermented. This usually happens in hot summer days or if you add too much instant yeast. The best proofing temperature for steamed buns is around 28 degree C. So in hot summer days, place the dough in cooler places. For Chinese steamed buns, we only need to ferment the dough until one and half or double in size. As long as the second proofing is guaranteed, the bun can be fluffy.
2. About how much water/milk should be added
Different flours may differ in absorbency. So adjust the water amount accordingly based on the 2:1 ratio. Usually higher gluten flour has stronger water absorbency capacity. If milk is used to replace water, then you should increase the amount because the water content of milk is around 87%. Count before adding the ingredients.
3. How to make the buns smooth in surface (avoid bumpy surface)
Firstly: the dough should be well kneaded at the very beginning.
Secondly:make sure the dough is appropriately fermented just double in size, do not over-ferment the dough. And pinch the air out after the firstly fermentation forcefully to remove the air inside. There should be no bubbles in the cross sections.
Lastly, control the fire during the steaming process. For steel steamer, use high fire all the time because there is no enough vapor. For bamboo steamer, low the fire to medium after boiling. Adjust the steaming time if necessary, if your buns are quite big in size, steam for 25 minutes. After steaming, remove your steamer off the fire and wait for around 5 minutes before lifting the cover, otherwise the buns might collapse.
4. How to keep the buns
If you made a large batch and can not eat up all time, steam the buns firstly and then fridge or freeze after cooled. They can be refrigerated for 3 days and frozen up to 1 month. Re-steam before serving.