Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mantou 馒头 (Plain Chinese Steamed Buns) and Soy Mantou

We love mantou (馒头).

We love it so much that we can eat it even on its own. Plain and simply white and fluffy! - That is what we after...

Mantou? If you are not familiar to Chinese food, mantou might be totally new to you. According to Wikipedia, mantou is commonly known as Chinese steamed bread buns. They are typically eaten as major carbohydrate source in northern parts of China where wheat is mainly grown rather than rice.

Typically, mantou are made with milled wheat flour, water and leavening agents.The shapes and sizes of mantou can vary depending on preference. The restaurant-style ones are often smaller and more delicate and can be also deep-fried. Pre-cooked mantou are usually available in the frozen section of Asian supermarkets, readily to serve by steaming or heating in the microwave oven.

Although this is my first time making mantou at scratch, I have been researching on a few steamed buns recipes. I've been wondering which recipe is the most ideal one to use and reckon that the success of making a good mantou depends on the leavening agents and type of flour used. Generally, the leavening agents used are either yeast, baking powder or baking soda. For a start, I'm attempting these two well-reputed yeasted-mantou recipes adapted from the book, The First Book of Noodles for Beginners by Carol (in Chinese language). Why these recipes? Unlike most Chinese steamed buns recipes that use shortening for smoother texture, I love these mantou recipes because they don't contain any shortening at all.
Both yielded two very different types of mantou; one is the plain basic one that uses plain finely-milled flour and the other one is the soy one using wheat germ and soya milk for a different texture and taste. 
 
The type of flour used can create different mantou textures. For white, fluffy, fine and smooth kind of texture, I prefer to use Hong Kong flour or finely-milled flour with 6-8% protein content. For more details on which types of flour to make steamed buns, please refer to this post by Miss B from Everybody Eats Well in Flanders.

As I was shopping for the right flour to use, I was wrong at first assuming that all flours with pictures of Chinese steamed buns are same being the finely-milled ones to use. After scrutinizing their contents carefully, I realised that some brands are pre-packed with a mixture of flour and its suggested leavening agents. For the two recipes that I used, I would recommend using only plain finely-milled flour with NO leavening agents added.


Both mantou are delicious and taste unique being two different kinds! After eating these mantou, I was totally convinced that both of these mantou recipes doesn't need any shortening at all. Especially the plain mantou... They are plain, simply white and fluffy! And this is what we after...

Plain Chinese Steamed Buns Soy Mantou
This is my first time making these plain Chinese steamed buns.
The plain basic mantou needs these...
The other ingredients that make these two different kinds of mantou
Making lots of mantou dough!!!
Shaping and proving mantou
My son was next to the steamer, waiting for these buns to be ready!
Gotta give some mantou to my son first before taking these photos ...
Plain, white and fluffy mantou! This is what we after...
Fluffy and chewy soy mantou
No doubt at all! Thumbs up!
 
Here are the recipes adapted and translated from the book, the first book of noodles for beginners by Carol Hu

Plain Mantou

Makes 8-10

Overnight sponge - make approximately 100g
60g flour (with 7-8 % protein)
1/8 tsp yeast
35ml water
a small pinch of salt

Knead dough for 7-8 mins until smooth.
Place dough in a greased bowl and allow it to prove overnight in the fridge.

100g overnight sponge
300g flour (with 7-8 % protein)
1/2 tsp yeast
170 ml milk
(doesn't have to be scalded)
30g sugar
1/8 tsp salt

plus 5-10g flour to use while rolling the dough to create a smooth texture

Using a bread maker, mix all ingredients and knead into a smooth dough and allow it to prove for 1-2 hr. At this point, you can either store the dough in the fridge to use it on the next day or use it now.

Roll into a large rectangle sheet with 0.3cm thickness and smoothen its surface with the excess 5-10g of flour.

Start rolling the sheet along the longer side of the rectangle and roll it into a Swiss-roll-like rod and cut into 8-10 equal pieces.

Place on steaming rack lined with baking paper or any non-stick paper and place the rack under lukewarm water (about 37°C) and let it prove for 40 mins or double the size.

Steam buns for 15 mins. At the last 3 minutes of steaming, use a chopstick to lift the cover of the steamer slightly to form a small opening.

Turn off heat immediately after steaming. Allow all excess steam to escape through the small opening for 3-5 mins. Remove the steaming racks and allow buns to rest for 3-5 mins before opening the baskets cover. These finishing steps help to avoid sudden change of temperature leading mantou to develop wet crinkled surfaces .

Soya mantou

Makes 6-8 slightly smaller mantou
Ingredient A:
200g flour (with 7-8 % protein)
115 ml water
1/2 tsp yeast

Ingredient B:
65g flour (with 7-8 % protein)
1 tbsp wheat germ
1 tbsp milk powder*
35ml soya milk*
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp oil
a pinch of salt

*Please note that the original recipe uses 1 tbsp soy powder and 35ml milk but I have used milk powder and soya milk instead. I reckon the addition of soy powder might enhance further the taste of soy as the soy flavours in these buns are not straightaway obvious.

Using a bread maker, mix all ingredients A and knead into a smooth dough and allow it to prove for 1-2 hr or double in size.

Using a bread maker, knead in all ingredient B until smooth. At this point, you can either store the dough in the fridge to use it on the next day or use it now. Roll into a large rectangle sheet with 0.3cm thickness.

Start rolling the sheet along the longer side of the rectangle and roll it into a Swiss-roll-like rod and cut into 6-8 equal pieces.

Place on steaming rack lined with baking paper or any non-stick paper and place the rack under lukewarm water (about 37°C) and let it prove for 40 mins or double the size.

Steam buns for 15 mins. At the last 3 minutes of steaming, use a chopstick to lift the cover of the steamer slightly to form a small opening.

Turn off heat immediately after steaming. Allow all excess steam to escape through the small opening for 3-5 mins. Remove the steaming racks and allow buns to rest for 3-5 mins before opening the baskets cover.

Happy Steaming
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47 comments:

  1. Hi Zoe,
    Your mantou look so good.
    Adding soy powder in will yield a soft and fine texture for the mantou.
    Now, can I have a piece for tea? :D
    mui

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  2. Love your soft and fluffy mantous! I think the soy one would have a unique taste.

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  3. Zoe,i love the taste of soya mantou,nice~hehe^_^

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  4. i love mantou especially with curries. yummy!

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  5. Looks real good...the texture seem so soft too. I have never made mantou before. Love to give this a try

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  6. Zoe, you are working overtime again with 2 versions of mantou! I love mantou especially with stewed pork belly. Would love to try the one with soy milk powder.

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  7. Hi Zoe

    Love the look of the soft white mantou! I like your steamer too:)

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  8. Hi Zoe, this is very interesting, healthy and yummy. Will try this one day. Have a great day and cheers :)

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  9. Love this plain mantou and good to eat with a cup of tea!

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  10. Both mantou look so soft and fluffy. Somehow I like the soy one more.

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  11. very nicely cut mantou... but definitely look better than the ones we get in beijing

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  12. Hi Zoe, we love eating mantous too but with dong po pork. Great for soaking up all the delicious sauce! YUM.

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  13. It doesn't surprise me that these had the thumbs up!! simply gorgeous!
    Mary x

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  14. Hi Zoe , bookmarked your mantou rolls , so light fluffy and I know they are delicious thanks for sharings :).

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  15. Hi Zoe,

    mantou is one of my family's main dish, just next to rice. I know how to make mantou since I was a kid. We like to eat it plain with soup and vegetables. Your mantou is really good, soft and chewy. Thumbs up to you!

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  16. Soft and fluffy mantous indeed! Very well done, sure don't look like something from a first timer :)

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  17. Zoe, double thumbs up for your mantou, GOOD !!!!

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  18. Zoe, I love mantou too! Used to dip in chilli crab or braised pork. mmm... so yummy!

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  19. I don't know mantou, but I do know Chinese steamed buns! But I've never had them plain without a filling!

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  20. We love mantou and never thought to make it at home. Yours look so pretty and amazing Zoe! So impressive! Love the different variations you made too, thanks so much for sharing :)

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  21. I love steamed buns; sometimes i make them with yeast and sometimes with SR flour - for a quick version ;-)

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  22. Your mantou looks very soft n fluffy. I'm sure your son really enjoy having homemade mantou.

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  23. Hi Zoe, these are so lovely!

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  24. Wow Zoe, your mantou came perfect...chewy, light and soft...yum! I can imagine pulling pieces out of it...yum!
    Have a great week :D

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  25. Zoe, you made me craving for mantou now lol.

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  26. I've never had these before, but I'd love to try them. They look wonderful!:)

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  27. your mantou looks very soft...give me five! well done

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  28. Looks so soft... Can I order some for my kids? I tried once and I failed... =(

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  29. Zoe, this two type of mantou sound delicious. my kids likes mantou very much. will try your recipe next time.

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  30. Zoe, your mantou looks soft and fluffy, one piece for me please :)

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  31. Hi, Zoe... The Mantou look so good and I bet taste delicious.:)

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  32. I love mantou too, i like to dip in curry chicken, super delicious..:)

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  33. Zoe,

    Thanks for the link back! Your mantous look lovely!.

    You know what, I always avoid using made-in-china bao flours after having just one bad experience. They always come pre-packed with leavening agent, which makes adding of yeast difficult because you don't know how much yeast has already been pre-added. What's more, with the slew of food scandals such as the milk powder scandal in China, it makes consumers like us very wary of their products.

    For all my baos or mantous, I always use a brand of cake flour which I am not sure if it's available in Australia. It is made in Thailand, and it's called Royan Fan Cake Flour, you can see the picture on the link you posted, it has 8% protein level and can be used both for chiffon cakes and baos, no need to buy extra pack of flour. :)

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    1. Hi Miss B,

      I feel the same too with some food products that are made in China. I try to avoid them as much as I can. The flour that I used is from Taiwan. I used to be able to buy Hong Kong flour but can't find this brand anymore :(

      Zoe

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  34. I've had these in restaurants (I think - something really similar maybe) but never made them at home. And some day I will! Yours look wonderful. Great inspiration - thanks so much.

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  35. Haven't had mantou for quiet sometime . I love it deep-fried and dunk in condensed milk :D

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  36. Love the look of your mantous, especially the plain ones, I have yet to bake anything with soy, and I am not very partial to it:P

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  37. Very nice mantou & yummy! I've just baked some buns with soya milk & I must say that the flavor is quite subtle . I would love to try this mantou recipe as I've some leftover soya milk ! :p

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  38. so fluffy and delicious!!!Never made this before

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  39. hvnt been making mantou for quite some time..seeing yours, a bit itchy to make some ..:)

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  40. Hi Zoe, your mantous are so soft and fluffy, perfect for breakfast!

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  41. interesting... soy mantao... I really would love to try the soy ones! :)

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  42. Hi Zoe, I made plain mantous using your recipe yesterday and results turned out soft and stayed soft even up till today. I am very pleased with the recipe because it uses plain flour instead of bao flour and no shortening was used. By the way I used Pillsbury AP flour from America.

    I attributed the soft texture could be due to overnight per-fermented dough and milk played a large part to in the softness.

    This is a keeper recipe for I had not experienced making baos that stayed soft up till the next day even though shortening was used.

    Would be trying out your Lai Wong Bao in the near future. I always like bao and bread with very little fats involved. I do not mind using more milk because milk is certainly very nutritious compare to fats such as butter and oil, just as we drink milk as wholesome food, we never heard people drink oil for good health!

    Thank you for this recipe and all the trouble you have taken to give your readers very informative reference each time with representation of two different versions for each recipe. Because of your unselfish sharing, I was able to bake pineapple tarts using your recommended thumb-ups recipe from Fresh from the Oven which in turn I received many good praisesreviews from family members and friends who tasted my pineapple tarts this year.

    Blessings
    Priscilla Poh

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    1. Hi Priscilla,

      I'm very happy to know that you like all these recipes. Appreciate all that you wrote to me.

      I'm happy too to know that my blog has been useful and informative. Cheers!

      Zoe

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  43. very good. step by step pictures..looks so good and beautiful. thankyou for shearing. Indian Recipe

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