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Chinese Steamed Bun – 包子

In Chinese, Recipes on May 19, 2010 at 8:19 am

I’ve always thought that I needed one of these in order to steam my food:

Apparently not! As long as you have a pot / pan (with a lid) that is big enough to enclose some kind of container on a stand (e.g. small bowl), steaming is just as easy as putting a pot of water to boil. Here’s how I do mine: fill the base of a large pot with 3-4cm height of water, place a bowl in the centre, then I lay the plate of food to be steamed on top of the bowl. 🙂

Great. Now you have no excuse not to try out steamed recipes.

Steaming food is a healthier choice because it doesn’t require the addition of oil and nutrients are not leached into boiling water. Moreover, the steam keeps the food moist and tender…AND busy / lazy people don’t have to watch it closely (as long as the water at the base does not dry out, your food and house will be safe) so it’s easy to cook the food well without spending much time at the stove.

Evidently, it isn’t used much in Western kitchens, but Asians use this method to cook almost anything — fish, meat, sweet potatoes, eggs, rice, soups, noodles, cakes, breads… Perhaps the common usage of this healthy method is part of the answer to the Westerner’s constant dwelling on ‘why are Asians so skinny’, apart from ‘burning energy picking up food with chopsticks’ lol. I guarantee that you can expect more steamed recipes to pop up soon!

First up, here’s a simple recipe for the Chinese steamed bun a.k.a. baozi (if filled) / mantou (if unfilled), which I often grab from the school canteen in Singapore for 60cents (30 euro cents, 2.5kr). Steaming bread is faster than baking it, and produces a texture that is both soft and moist. With many sweet and savory fillings to choose from – char siew, cabbage, corn, red bean paste, yam, lotus paste, etc etc… it is one of those grab-and-go breakfasts / snacks that is both satisfying and comforting. 🙂

Steamed Chinese Bun recipe adapted from standard baozi / mantou recipe

  • 400g plain / cake flour — I used 340g plain + 60g potato starch (usually corn starch)
  • 1-2 tsp yeast / half a yeast cake
  • 1 tsp baking powder (optional)
  • 50g sugar
  • 180ml warm water / milk
  • 2 tbsp oil
  1. Mix the yeast and warm water together.
  2. Mix dry ingredients together then rub in oil evenly (tenderizer by limiting gluten formation)
  3. Combine and knead into a soft dough.
  4. Cover with a damp cloth and leave aside to rise for 2h.
  5. Shape dough into a log of about 4cm in diameter. Cut into 2-3cm segments, flatten / roll into a round and wrap your desired filling (any finely chopped stir-fries or sweet pastes or anything you’d willingly eat with soft white bread – I had in mine cabbage and corn stir-fried with garlic, onions, chili, pepper and oyster sauce). Place on a square of baking paper to prevent it sticking to the plate.
  6. Steam for 8-10min and serve warm!
  7. If you’re lazy to make the filling, you can make mantou from the dough by rolling it out into a sheet, then rolling it up like a swiss roll, and cut to desired shape. Here’s a good pictorial instruction. Good to eat with anything with a gravy (e.g. Singaporean Chilli Crab!!) or your stir-fries (you can serve it on a side like the Europeans do with boiled potatoes!)

Note: Remember to leave enough space between the buns, it expands about 50% of its size after steaming!

Refrigerate the extras and just pop it into the microwave for 30s and… voila! Soft chewy buns!

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  1. […] to a greased pot / bowl that fits in your steamer. Here’s how to do it if you don’t have a […]

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