A Complete Guide to Making Perfect Mantou (Chinese Steamed Buns)


If perfectness had a bread/bun form, it would need been these soft fluffy, chewy and delicious milk mantous. I’ve created a variety of mantous and created this comprehensive guide with suggestions and tricks on making these yourself.

Mantou is a food I grew up with. Every time my grandparents visited our house, they’d give us a huge bag of mantou. We would eat it for breakfast, and sandwich it with different items like eggs, pork floss sausages, braised beef as well as cheese.

I’ve tried to make it for the last couple of years and have found it quite a bit more complicated than I anticipated. My mantou was usually in a wrinkly state, deflated, or even doughy (would get stuck on my teeth while eating). After a lot of experimentation, I’ve created this recipe that I am very happy with. This is why I hope you’ll all try this recipe as a way to make the perfect mantou for your home.

Why you should try this Recipe?

  • Learn how to cook delicious mantou that has a smooth surface.
  • This recipe includes step-by- picture step photos with simple to follow directions.
  • Mantou is easy to freeze and can be reheated well and you can make more and enjoy it later.
  • I share tips and tricks that I’ve learned from my peers as well as my own experiments. If you’ve been struggling to find your perfect mantou suggestions might help!

The ingredients you’ll need

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Step-by-Step Instructions

Step 1: Sponge before the Day

Mix the milk, water, yeast, sugar and 100g of flour , and stir until it is smooth. Cover and let it rest at temperatures of room temperature for 15 minutes before placing it in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours. This sponge that is soaked overnight is the key to creating mantou that tastes better.

Your liquid must be close to the temperature of your body. I generally mix hot water and cold milk, and the temperature should be right.

Step 2: Make the Dough

Method 1: Using the stand mixer (preferred method)

Incorporate baking powder as well as oil to the sponge and mix it well before pouring it into the stand mixer. Add the remaining flour (reserve approximately 40g) and mix on the medium-low setting for around 8 minutes. After the dough has finished mixing, it should be elastic and sticky.

Place the dough on an appropriate surface. Hand make a kneading motion with the reserved flour in the dough (you can do this in a couple of batches) and continue to knead until all the flour has been integrated. It should appear smooth with a surface that feels slightly damp when you press it. It doesn’t have to be incredibly smooth.

Method 2. Knead the dough with hands

Incorporate baking powder as well as oil to the sponge and mix it well before adding the remaining flour. Mix all the ingredients until the liquid is completely absorbed before placing it on a work surface. Make an emulsion ball and then make it into a ball for five minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then continue to knead for 5 to 7 minutes.

To form the dough, press the dough away from your body using the heel of your hand prior to rolling it back into (see the image below for a reference).

Step 3 Shaping Mantou

Method 1 – Use a an pasta maker (faster and gives an even, smoother surface)

Cut the dough in two pieces and cover the area you’re not working with. Make the dough flat using the help of a rolling pin to ensure it is able to pass through the pasta maker. Set the pasta maker at the thickness setting of 1 and then roll the dough into it.

Divide your dough into two halves and then run it over the machine once more and repeat this process seven times until you’ve got an even surface. Make sure to flour the dough every time it becomes wet to make it easier to roll it by the maker.

Clean the area of dough with a little of water and roll it tightly into a long log beginning at an edge that is straighter. The log should be rolled several times more until it becomes a larger or until it is the desired length.

Cut the ends in two and cut the log into 4 or 5 pieces. Reserve a small chunk of dough (about the size of the size of a cherry) to act as the “rise timer”. When the cutting process flattens the dough pieces and the edges are flattened, you can shape them and return them to the original size. Set the dough pieces on top of a sheet parchment paper. Follow the same procedure for the remaining dough, which was put aside earlier.

I would highly recommend making pasta using a pasta maker form mantou. It’s easy and quick and the end result is stunning. I own an Marcato Atlas 150 that works exceptionally well. It can be used to create amazing homemade noodles.

Method 2: Rolling with hands

Take a small piece of dough (about the size of an apple) to serve as the “rise timer” (This is discussed in the following section) and then cut the remainder in 8-10 portions.

Pick one piece of dough and cover the rest of them to keep drying. Make the shape of a log, then fold it over (like the second step in the photo below) and rolling it out once more. Repeat the process 3-4 times. This is the process to remove air bubbles. Therefore, you must press harder to squeeze the bubbles.

Drop a drop of water onto your work surface and then place the dough on the water drop. Make a loose cup using your fingers, hold the dough, then roll it around on your work surface to shape it into an oval. Put the dough between your two palms, then shift one of your hands forward and the other one back to form the dough to make it slightly higher.

Step 4 Step 4 – Proving

Put the mantou in the steamer. Make sure to fill a pot with two cups of water. It should be heated until it’s warm although it’s still not steaming (around 40 degrees Celsius or 105 degrees Fahrenheit) prior to placing the bamboo steamer over the pot in order to prove.

The length of proofing can vary between 30 and 50 minutes. If you own two-layer steamers make sure to switch it half way so that the bottom layer is a little warmer than the top.

The best way to know when the buns are ready be cooked is to place an ounce of dough (the “rise indication of time” that was mentioned earlier) in a small container such as one for cough syrup. draw a line along inside the cups to show the height of the piece of dough, then put it into the bamboo steamer, using your mantou. The dough-in-a-cup can help you determine exactly when the dough expands in size.

Another method to determine that it’s done is if you gently squeeze the sides of the mantou. The consistency will feel similar to the texture of a marshmallow, and the dent will gradually rebound after the pressure is released. But, I’ve found that the method of dough-in-a cup is more precise.

The 5th step consists of steaming

The heat should be turned down to moderate and let the water come to boiling (no need to refill the water or take out the steamer). Once the water has reached a boil then reduce the heat to medium low and then steam for 18 minutes if the steamer features two layers (and steamers that last for 15 minutes have only one layer). Ideally, the temperature should be just enough to cause steam is erupting out of one area in the steamer. If steam is flowing out from all directions and everywhere, then the temperature is not high enough.

After it’s finished steaming then turn off the heat and take the steamer out of the pot. Then, you can open just a small crack for two minutes, allowing the heat to go out slowly, before removing the lid.

Tips and Tips and

  • If you’d prefer to make it all in one day, allow the sponge to rest at the room for 30-60 minutes. If the temperature in your room is very high, you can chill your sponge inside the refrigerator for 30 minutes prior to using.
  • Baking powder makes mantou more fluffy and whiter. If you like your mantou to have more bite, you can leave out the baking powder. Do not change baking soda.
  • Stand mixers and bread machines can handle the tough dough (like in this instance) better. In these situations you can mix in the flour at once and then let it rest for 8-10 minutes, instead of adding the last bit in flour using a hand mixer.
  • When you are shaping the mantou ensure that you do it as quickly as you can to ensure that the dough doesn’t begin rising and forming air bubbles. That could result in a wrinkled surface following the steaming.
  • If you’re making mantou by hand instead of making pasta using a machine, you can put the portion of the dough you’re not using in the refrigerator (covered) to stop the dough from starting to rise and forming air bubbles.
  • Based on the flour that you are using and the humidity at your home, you may have to adjust the proportion of flour and liquid. Your dough must be smooth and the top should be a little wet when you put your hands on it.
  • If you’re using steamers made of stainless steel cover the lid with an absorbent cloth. Otherwise, the water droplets could fall onto the mantou’s surface and form a bumpy hard surface.
  • There should be no space between your steamer and your pot, and that the size of the pot should be identical or slightly bigger than the steamer.
  • Mantou is best enjoyed in warm temperatures. To warm it up, just steam it for 5 minutes (or 10 minutes if frozen) and it’ll be like the fresh version. It can be done in a vegetable steamer , or the instant-pot.

Recipe FAQs

Why is my mantou covered with wrinkles on its surface?

The most common causes for mantou turning out wrinkled are:

1.) Over checked.

2.) Incorrectly proofed.

3.) 3. The bubbles of air inside the dough haven’t been completely removed.

4.) The excessive heat generated by steaming results in water drips onto the mantou.

Do I have to use this recipe to make mantou made of whole wheat?

Yes, you can use 50 grams of wheat whole and 50g bread flour in making the sponge. Everything else is the same.

What is the reason my mantou seems so thick but not fluffy?

It could be that you didn’t mix the dough well enough, or that the mantou hasn’t being proofed.

My mantou is sticky and is it stuck in my mouth?

This is usually the case when the mantou isn’t fully cooked. Be sure that there isn’t a gap between the pot and your steamer while steaming. Also alter the temperature so there is steam clearly flowing out of one end that is the side of your steamer (if steam is flowing through all directions, the temperature is too high).

How can I store and heat mantou?

When it’s cool, put them in an airtight container for a day or place the contents in freezer bags to put them in a freezer bag for up to 1 month. For heating steam them for five minutes (10 minutes after freezing) prior to eating.

What is mantou food made with?

My preferred way to eat it is to make an appetizer sandwich that includes eggs fried with a few drops of the soy sauce, or even pork floss. I’ve also spread some fermented curd of beans (Dou Fu Ru ) on it, which is equally delicious. Other methods like deep-frying your mantou, then dip it in sweetened condensed milk are also excellent. However, you can also make it into an artisan bread for sandwiches and then stuff whatever you want in it or simply take it as is with congee, or even soymilk.

Matou is a lot of practice. Don’t quit if you don’t be successful the first time. Continue to try and apply the suggestions I provide I’m sure you’ll be successful very soon!

Feel at ease to leave a comment in the box below if there are any additional concerns.


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