Mantou are Chinese steamed buns generally made with flour, yeast, and water. There are many variations, particularly with the additions of milk, whole wheat, or even sweet potato. The buns are fairly plain in taste on their own, so they are usually served with accompaniments, fillings, or dipping sauces. During the Lunar New Year, a few of the buns are fried to make Golden (fried) and Silver (plain steamed) Mantou. They are served with frosting-like condensed milk.
I used a milk-based Mantou recipe as the base to add some richness to the buns.
This was my first time making Mantou and I didn’t make the rope quite thin enough (about 1 inch) so they were on the thin side. I underestimated how much these little buns would puff up on the second rise and theygrew in height quite a bit. In the future, I’ll be sure to cut the pieces a little wider so they have a bigger base and not be so tall.
I used a bamboo steamer with two levels so I could steam all of the buns at once. One steamer basket will hold about 6 buns. I lined the steamer baskets with parchment, making sure there were enough uncovered vents for steam to escape. Vents can also be cut into the parchment or you can cut out individual pieces of parchment to place under each separate bun.
Be careful when removing the lid to keep condensation from falling onto the buns.
Golden and Silver Mantou with Condensed Milk
Adapted from China Sichuan Food
3/4 cup (180 milliliters) lukewarm milk, 105-115 degrees F, divided
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups (300 grams) all purpose flour
Vegetable oil for frying
Condensed milk for dipping
In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of the lukewarm milk and sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk. Let sit for a minute before stirring to combine. Allow to rest until frothy, about 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a large food processor fitted with a dough bad or a large bowl, add the flour. Slowly add the milk with the yeast. If needed, add the remaining 1/4 cup milk to bring together dough. If too dry, add a little more milk. If too sticky, add a little more flour. On a lightly floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic. Transfer to a lightly oiled dough, turning to coat, and cover with a towel or plastic. Allow to rest until doubled, about 1 hour.
On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a long rope about 1 inch thick. Cut the rope into 12 equal pieces. If using a metal steamer, brush the bottoms of the buns with a little oil. If using a bamboo steamer, line with parchment. Make sure the parchment doesn’t completely cover the holes for steam to pass. If needed poke a few holes in the parchment. Arrange the buns on the parchment at least 1 inch apart. Cover with the lid and allow to rest until puffed, 10-20 minutes.
Fill a wok with water, keeping it low enough to not touch the bottom of the steamer. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium. Top with the covered steamer and steam the buns until cooked through, 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool 5 minutes before removing the lid.
In a small pot, heat at least 3 inches of vegetable oil over medium heat. Once 350 degrees F, add some of the steamed buns, being careful not to overcrowd. Fry until golden, turning as needed and pushing them down into the oil to evenly fry all sides. Transfer to a towel lined plate. Repeat until half of the steamed buns have been fried.
Serve with the condensed milk as a dipping sauce.