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Chinese Steamed Buns (Mantou)

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Mantou are plain steamed buns with no fillings and are traditionally consumed in Northern China as a staple food in contrast to rice as a staple food in Southern China. They are normally eaten plain and also commonly served as a side dish. While bao or baozi are usually stuffed with sweet or savoury fillings and are rounded in shape. Mantou and baozi are so universally popular worldwide that you can find them everywhere, from dim sums in a Chinese yum cha restaurants, to frozen ready-made packaged food in Asian supermarket or all kinds of food stores and even as a street/hawker food. They are usually eaten during breakfast, as a snack or meal on its own or as an accompaniment for a dish like braised meat, meat stews or meat casseroles and saucy dishes like Kung Pao Chicken or Singapore Chilli Prawns or Crabs. For my gluten free Asian recipes, my mantou are made with gluten free self-raising flour, dry instant yeast, rice milk, agave syrup, salt and vanilla extract. This recipe is also vegan, dairy free, nut free, egg free, soy free, refined sugar free and allergy friendly.

The origin of mantou dated all the way back to many thousands of years ago during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (771B.C.) where the people were consuming steamed fermented flour dough called “Yi” food. During the Han Dynasty, use of stone mills became popular for milling wheat flour and mantou and wheat noodles became a popular food staple for the people of Northern China. According to a famous Chinese folktale, mantou stuffed with meat fillings was invented by a renowned Chinese military strategist named Zhuge Liang during the era of the Three Kingdoms (220–280 CE). During this time, stuffed mantou were used to replace human barbarian’s heads as a sacrifice to the river god in order for the army to cross the raging Lu River. By the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127 AD), bao or baozi became the terms used for buns with filling. Mantou still remains as the name used for steamed buns with no fillings.

Disclosure Statement: I am NOT paid by Orgran for this post.

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22 Responses

  1. MFKC
    | Reply

    Can mantou be made without yeast?

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      Yes, mantou can be made without yeast. Simply replace the same amount of yeast with baking powder in the recipe. Or you can also try my Chinese Steamed Custard Buns recipe that uses baking powder instead of yeast. :)

  2. Claudia
    | Reply

    Is the dough suppose to rise in the ziploc bag or when steaming? My buns did not increase in size.

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      The dough should rise in the ziplock bags during the 1 hour resting time and then rise further when steaming. If your buns did not rise at all, check that you are using unexpired dry instant yeast and gf self-raising flour. Also warming the rice milk is important in making the dough rise. Hope these will help when you try making this recipe again.

  3. Charlotte Rice
    | Reply

    These Steamed Buns are so easy to make, soft and yummy too! Thanks so much for the recipe.

    Rating: 5 / 5

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      Thanks for your good review and feedback! :)

  4. Ghulam Mohyudin
    | Reply

    It was perfect the first time. I learn so much from you as well! Keep it up great post.

  5. Monica
    | Reply

    Can I use this recipe/dough to make egg custard buns? Can I use milk instead of rice milk and sugar instead of agave?

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      You can use this recipe or my Steamed Custard Buns recipe for egg custard buns. And you can certainly use milk and sugar instead of rice milk and agave syrup for these 2 recipes. Just adjust the sweetness to taste. :)

      • Monica
        | Reply

        Thanks! I did see that recipe, but this one uses instant yeast. I wasn’t sure how to adjust the other one to use yeast, so was thinking I’d try to use this recipe ???? Do you have any pointers on how to incorporate yeast in the other recipe? This is my first time attempting any kind of gluten free bun so I’m totally new! Love your site and looking forward to trying more recipes! ????

        • daphnegoh
          | Reply

          To include yeast for the Steamed Custard Buns recipe, just omit the baking powder completely and add 3 teaspoons dry instant yeast instead. Thanks for your kind comments and hope you enjoy all my recipes. :)

  6. Maya
    | Reply

    Hi Daphne. Question: Is it possible to slice these buns after they cool down, and use then as bao buns?
    I was looking for a GF vegan bao buns recipe for a while now, and couldn’t find a decent one, and this looks awesome.

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      Hi Maya, you can make the dough into any shapes or sizes according to your preference. For bao buns, you can shape them into round buns before steaming and then slice after they cool down while still warm to add fillings for the buns. :)

  7. May
    | Reply

    Hi Daphne,

    So glad that I found your blog…been dying for a good mantou for a few months now :) Will definitely give this recipe a try!
    Thanks

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      Hi May,

      Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope you enjoy this mantou recipe! :)

  8. Alex
    | Reply

    Yeah… I used Bob RedMill’s All Purpose Flour too and it was liquidy and I had to throw it out.

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      Best to use a light self-raising flour like Orgran brand for the buns to turn out well. :)

  9. Jennie
    | Reply

    Hi
    Can I skip agave sugar? Is the bamboo steamer a must? If yes, where can I buy it?

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      If you skip the agave sugar, just use normal sugar to taste instead as agave sugar is sweeter than normal sugar.

      Bamboo steamer is not essential, you can use any type of steamer. :)

  10. Megan Rickard
    | Reply

    What type of gluten free flour did you use because I used Bob RedMill’s All Purpose and it did not turn out at all. It was actually disgusting in flavor and dense. Please advise!

    • daphnegoh
      | Reply

      I used Organ gf Self Raising flour (also stated in my recipe ingredients). Use gf Self Raising Flour instead of gf All Purpose flour will give a much better results as self raising flour gives a much lighter texture. I have also tested Organ gf All Purpose Flour and result was not good. :)

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