Chinese Steamed Buns (Mantou)

This is a simple recipe for plain steamed buns (or mantou). Most Asian stores sell specialized Mantou flour, which works the same way and guarantees a soft bun. The key here is to let the dough rise enough, especially after cutting into bun shapes, so it will steam into a soft, fluffy bun rather than a dense brick. Deep frying the steamed bun into a golden, slightly crisp finish is a thing of beauty.

Makes 18-24 buns


    •    2 ¼ Tsp active dry yeast (1 packet)

    •    1 ¾  cup water

    •    4 cups all-purpose flour (replace one cup with cake flour for a fluffier bun)

    •    1 Tsp salt

    •    1  Tbs sugar

        non-flavored oil for non-sticking buns


    1.    Warm water until lukewarm to touch (not hot). Remove to a bowl and sprinkle the yeast over top the liquid and let sit for 8-10 minutes.

    2.    Sift together flour, salt, and sugar. Mix the yeast liquid into the flour, alternating between pouring and stirring. Knead for 30 seconds until dough comes together.

    3.    Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 4-5 minutes. Place the dough in a large, greased bowl, cover, and let it rise until dough doubled in size (~1 hour).

    4.    When dough has doubled in size, punch it down, turn onto a floured surface and knead for for 30 seconds.

    5.    Divide the dough equally and roll into logs approximately 1” thick. Cut the dough into inch-wide pieces. Cover with slightly damp cloth and let them rest and rise slightly (about 30 minutes)

    6.    Line a bamboo steamer with parchment paper. Brush a thin coat of oil on bottom of each bun so it won’t stick to the steamer. Place each bun about two inches apart, as they will expand.

    8.    Fill a wok (or pot) with about an inch or two of water and bring to a boil. Put steamer basket over the water, cover and steam until buns are firm but springy (about 10-15 minutes). Note: Don’t forget to refill the water between batches.

For Fried Mantou

Follow the instructions above for steamed buns, then float individual buns into 350 degree f boiling peanut oil and deep fry until golden brown.