Man tou, or this all-purpose Chinese steamed bun dough, are a common food item in the daily diets of Beijingers. I’ve seen people buy them by the dozen, petite Chinese women enjoying enormous, fluffy ones with their stir-fry at lunchtime at the local food courts and plates of them presented with various cuisines in restaurants.
You may spot the man tou delivery men crisscrossing the city on electric mopeds and bicycle carts laden with bags and bags of man tou, on their way to deliver the warm buns to restaurants and markets. They come in a wide variety of forms and are consumed throughout the day.
The staple starch of southern Chinese is rice, while the staple starch of northern Chinese is noodles or man tou.
This man tou or All-Purpose Chinese Steamed Bun recipe may be simple and straightforward, but it’s the foundation for a wide range of delicious-filled buns and snacks.
- 4 cups of all purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cup of lukewarm water
- 2 teaspoons of baking powder
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of instant yeast
- Using a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. After adding the water, knead the mixture until it becomes a cohesive dough. Covering the dough with a towel, let it rise for about two hours. The dough ball can be rolled into a log and then into as many pieces as desired.
- Spread them out in a steamer lined with cheesecloth, leaving about 2 inches between them. Let the buns rise for another 15 minutes with the steamer covered. Using a steamer, cook the buns for 20 minutes over medium-high heat.
- Serve! It takes only 5 minutes of additional steaming to bring them back up to temperature. Don’t even think about nuking them; they won’t stay moist.