Chinese steamed buns can be stuffed with various types of fillings or unstuffed. Those stuffed steamed buns are called Baozi in Chinese (Bao Buns) and those without fillings are called as mantou. Mantou(馒头) is a basic staple in the northern part of China and is served in every place of China, not just the northern part. Learn how to make fluffy and smooth mantou each time at home. Once mastered the basic process and basic dough, you will be able to make all types of pillow-soft Chinese buns at home.
In other parts of China, Mantou is mostly served as breakfast in restaurants and food carts. The basic ingredients for Mantou are flour, yeast, and water. But we may also use milk, oil, or sugar either to enhance the flavor or improve the texture.
Well-made mantou has a lovely natural and sweet taste from the wheat itself even if no sugar is added. It also has a super lovely smooth surface and pillow-soft texture.
What's the difference between mantou and Baozi
Mantou and Baozi can share the same dough and proofing process. Mantou is unfilled and there is no wrapping process. While baozi is filled with savory meat filling or sweet paste filling.
Why this recipe
Previously I use two proofing methods to make the mantou. Two-proofing means that the dough needs to be set aside until fluffy twice. Then I figure out this method is not very friendly for beginners, so I recommend this one time proofing method.
Tips before starting off
- There are two types of yeast usually used to make steamed buns: instant yeast and dry yeast. If you are using dry yeast, activate them by placing them in warm water (around 35 degree C) before mixing with the dough. And you should avoid adding instant yeast near sugar and salt.
- In order to get a smooth mantou, the dough should be well kneaded in both stages. After the second kneading, there should be no large bubbles in cross section of your dough. Please keep dusting your operation board during the second kneading stage, it not only help to avoid sticky dough but also fill up any small holes brought by the first proofing. So we can have smooth steamed buns.
- Sugar is optional. You can barely taste sweetness in the well-steamed buns but sugar help to form better gluten.
- If the dough is sticky and hard to control, dust your board and hands.
- For second rising mantou (二发馒头), the steaming process should start with cold water.
- If you want to add milk to improve your steamed buns, use 180g milk for 300g all purpose flour.
- Adding 1.5 to 2% of the flour weight can tighten the gluten network and improves the volume of the finished buns.
FAQ about Mantou making
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.
What about the dough smells sour?
Sour taste indicates that the dough is over-fermented. This usually happens in hot summer days or when too much instant yeast is used. The best proofing temperature for steamed buns is around 28 degree C. So in hot summer days, place the dough in cooler places. I suggest rest the dough until 1.5 times in size in summer and 2 times in size in winter. As long as the second proofing is guaranteed, the bun can be fluffy.
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 even in winter, 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, you can use high fire all the time because there is not enough vapor via the holes. For bamboo steamer, low the fire to medium after boiling. Adjust the steaming time if necessary, if your buns are bigger 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.
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.
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.
There will be honeycomb texture when pulled apart.
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.
Divide the dough into two halves and take one portion and re-knead again. To make smooth Mantou, It is quite important to pinch all the air bubbles out of the dough and keep dusting your operation board.My checking way is to cut a cross sections and see whether there are large bubbles inside.
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.
Please the buns into a lined steamer. 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.
Other Chinese steamed recipes
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.
Chinese Steamed Buns
- 300 g all-purpose flour + 2 tbsp. more for dusting
- 1 and ½ teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar ,optional
- 150 g 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, dust the operating board and re-knead the dough for 3-4 minutes until the dough becomes almost smooth again. Divide the dough into two parts, keep kneading and shape each part into 1 inch thick long log.
- 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. Place the buns to a lined steamer one by one. Leave some space among each one as the buns rise after steaming.
- Add cold water to your wok or steel steamer. 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 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.