My Grandma’s Mantou Recipe

There are a lot of things that you can take for granted especially during these time. I look back to days when I used to bake and cook with my grandma and I would reminesce on some of the food we ate. One particular recipe was chinese steamed buns. We used to make them almost every couple months. It wasn’t just one or two batched at a time. It was closer to 20-30 batches in the day. At the age of 12, we made hundreds of buns in my grandma’s kitchen. It had to be one of my favourite memories.

Looking back, I remember we didn’t use a recipe. We followed my grandma’s instructions. Our measuring spoons were old tablespoons. Our measuring cup was the perfect tea cup. Placing one thumb on the lip, you can get the exact measurement. Of course not every household had these exact items and making them at home, I thought I would experiment and relive some of the memories.

Start making the buns by preparing the yeast. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix 3/4 cup water, 1 tsp sugar and 2 tbsp quick-rise yeast. Let it sit for about 15 minutes.

In a sauce pot, add 1 1/2 cup water and 4-5 tbsp shortening. Heat the water until the shortening just melts. Turn off the heat and let it cool.

Mix 4 cups of flour and 1 tsp baking powder in a bowl. Add 2 tbsp shortening and cut it into the flour until the shortening is in little bits.

Mix all the ingredients together and knead dough until it is just mixed. Take the dough and knead it on a well floured surface until the dough bounces back when pressed.

Put the ball of dough in a greased bowl. Add a layer of shortening on the dough to prevent drying out. Let the dough rise for about 20 minutes.

While the dough is rising, prepare the coffee filters. Yes, you might think it is weird but my grandma used coffee filters as the liner. You can also purchase ones specifically for buns but it is often hard to find. I usually cut the coffee filter in quarters. When the dough has risen, split dough in half. Take each half and divide it into 12 pieces. Take each ball of dough and fold them until it is round. Place it on a cut up coffee filter. Do this for the rest of the dough. Let the buns rise for 20 minutes or until double in size. For my first batch, I like to let the buns rise in the steamer. Larger steamers can fit at least 6 buns but I had a small steamer that could only fit 2-3. The other buns can be put on a tray for rising.

Steam the buns for 10-15 minutes. Take the steamer off the heat and let it cool before cooling it on a rack. This recipe makes 24 buns and can be stuffed with your favourite fillings. They also freeze really well and can be reheated in the microwave. Enjoy!

Ingredients (makes 24 buns)

  • 2 tbsp shortening
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp quick-rise yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 4-5 tbsp shortening
  1. Mix 4 cups of flour and 1 tsp baking powder in a bowl. Add 2 tbsp shortening and cut it into the flour until the shortening is in little bits. Set aside.
  2. In a sauce pot, add 1 1/2 cup water and 4-5 tbsp shortening. Heat the water until the shortening just melts. Turn off the heat and let it cool.
  3. In a small bowl, mix 3/4 cup water, 1 tsp sugar and 2 tbsp quick-rise yeast. Let it sit for about 15 minutes.
  4. Mix all the ingredients together and knead dough until it is just mixed. Take the dough and knead it on a well floured surface until the dough bounces back when pressed. Put the ball of dough in a greased bowl. Add a layer of shortening on the dough to prevent drying out. Let the dough rise for about 20 minutes.
  5. When the dough has risen, split dough in half. Take each half and divide it into 12 pieces. Take each ball of dough and fold them until it is round. Place it on a cut up coffee filter. Do this for the rest of the dough. Let the buns rise for 20 minutes or until double in size.
  6. Steam buns in a steamer for about 10-15 minutes.
  7. Let cool. Store in the fridge or in the freezer.

If you enjoyed this recipe, check out some of the other recipes on this blog.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jill says:

    Some of the best recipes are the ones with great memories!
    Would you fill them after steaming or before?

    1. K Lee says:

      I would fill them before steaming.

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