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Steamed buns

  1. What is the difference between 馒头 (mán tou) and 包子 (bāo zi)?
  2. How to Make Man Tou
  3. How to Make Bao Zi

Beijing people eat steamed buns and noodle a lot. Sellers make steamed buns or noodle in their, sometimes, little store on the street with bare hands. Absolutely without a bread maker.

1. What is the difference between 馒头 (mán tou) and 包子 (bāo zi) ?

In short, both are steamed buns but man tou has no filling while bao zi has fillings for example pork and chinese cabbage (白菜 bái cài) or other things.

There are many different types of man tou and bao zi. The basic man tou is made with flour but there are other types for example flour and cornmean, flour and purple rice (紫米), black rice, ground beans and more. The most common type of bao zi is the one filled with ground pork and bai cai, but there're also BBQ pork and more.

Man tou is very popular in Beijing (I heard in the north). People don't eat rice everyday here. They eat noodle, dumpling (饺子 jiǎo zi), man tou, etc. They even make mini man tou for kids.

2. How to make BASIC man tou /Steam Buns:
For dough: Similar to regular white bread.

2 cups of flour
300 ml warm water
1/2 tea spoon of yeast (in China I use ANGLE brand ). I don't know if the yeast here is the same as in the USA
1/4 tea spoon salt
1/2 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoon milk powder for taste


Put yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar and 2 tablespoon of warm water. Let it sit until bubbles form

Combine the flour, yeast, salt, sugar, milk. Add the warm water little by little. You can always adjust the flour/water quantity here

Knead for 7 minutes

Let it sit until double in size (in the summer probvably 1 hr, in the winter could be as long as 3 hrs)

(Some people like to cover the dough with wet towel, like below. )

Put the dough back on a floury surface. Then, knead again for a few minutes.

Cut into 8 pieces and form balls. I usually put directly inside a ready pot. Don't forget to fill the water, put the steamer and wet cloth on it (wet: so the buns won't stick on the cloth). Then put the man tou on the cloth just like below:

Let it sit again in about 1/2 hr or 1 hour.

Steam for 25 minutes

The final step is really important: First, open the cover then turn off the fire. Take all the buns and put in container covered with cloth.

We need a pot with rack to steam. The rack needs to be covered with cloth. In the winter when the water is cold, I usually warm up the pot with water, rack and cloth inside it for a few minutes then put the buns dough. Make sure the cloth is wet. If not the man tou will stick at the end.

Variations: add 20% the quantity of the flour with other things like the purple rice, black rice, corn flour.


For yeast bread, it's important to pay attention on:
. Temperature. The dough needs to rest in a warm temperature. In the winter, sometimes I put it under the heater/sun/room with heater etc. Be sure to cover it well so the dough won't dry up.

. Knead well. Knead well is what distinguishes yeast bread with quick bread. If you feel your hands are too sticky with flour, wash first, dry well, and dust some flours on them. Then, start kneading again.

. Be patient. In the winter sometimes it can take double the amount for the dough to double.

3. How to make Bao Zi - Steamed bun with fillings

There are various types of bao zi. In the picture, the filling was pork with celerey and pork with bai cai.

Pork 1/2 lb (I use li ji/sirloin)
Green onion
Cut ginger and green onion really little.

Ground pork meat and mix with water so the meat is not crumpled together. Stir/make a cricle in one direction using chopsticks or fork.

Put ginger and green onion, a bit of salt and a bit of vegetable oil.

See next photos on how to shape bao zi. See also how fine the vegetables are cut. Make sure to have proportion around 1:3 (veggie 3x as much as meat).

Steam for 30 minutes

TIPS: In the southern China, people eat a lot of bao zi. Best part of the experience is to eat the soup inside the bao zi too. It's really tasty, so don't throw the soup away!

How to wrap bao zi

To make the skin for bao zi, use the same steps as mantou above up to step 4. Then, cut dough into 8 pieces, and form a thin skin, see below.

Put the filling in the center of the dough.

Put one finger in one position and use the other finger, pinch and bring all sides of the circle together.

Put all in the steamer and steam for 30 minutes.