Steamed buns, or “man tou,” are a staple in the Beijinger’s diet. I see people buy them by the dozen, dainty Chinese girls eating huge, fluffy ones with their stir-fry for lunch at the local food courts, and plates of them served with various dishes in restaurants.
Man tou delivery guys, with bags and bags of man tou hanging off their electric mopeds and bicycle carts, can be see criss-crossing the streets of the city to deliver these warm buns to restaurants and markets. In their many shapes and varieties, people eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
In general, people from southern China often prefer rice as their primary starch, but people from Northern China often prefer noodles and man tou.
This man tou recipe is your basic, plain, and all-purpose steamed bun recipe, but it’s the gateway to so many varieties of tasty filled buns and snacks. We also now have a ‘Part 2’ recipe for scallion twists, or “hua juan” that is a delightful treat that uses this basic man tou dough.
Mix the all purpose flour, instant yeast, baking powder, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the water, and knead until it forms a smooth dough.
Cover the dough with a cloth and let it rise for about 2 hours. Roll the dough ball into a log (the size depends on how large or small you want your man tou), and cut it into however many equal pieces you’d like.
Arrange them in a metal steamer lined with cheese cloth (a bamboo steamer works also), about 2 inches apart. See our post on how to set up a steamer if you’re not familiar with steaming foods in Chinese cooking.
Cover the steamer and let the buns rise for another 15 minutes. Turn on the heat to medium high and steam the buns for 20 minutes.
Serve! To re-heat, just steam them again for about 5 minutes. Don’t be tempted to use the microwave, because they’ll dry out!
That’s it! We’ll be referencing this recipe in the future, for other variations!