Chinese steamed buns are also known as 'mantou' or bao buns (baozi). They are smooth yet fluffy and usually eaten as they are. However, in the popular chilli crab dish, they are fried and served together to complement the dish.
Chinese steamed buns are best eaten when they are freshly made. Steamed buns are sometimes made with fillings such as barbecued pork, vegetables or sweet bean paste. There are many varieties in the market with different types of fillings. As for me, I love them plain. These are known as mantou. The secret to perfect steamed buns calls for the correct flour to be used. When I first attempted the recipe, I was so disappointed with the outcome as it did not turn out to be at all fluffy.
Type of mantou or bao flour
Over the months, I kept experimenting and was on the verge of giving up when finally, I succeeded in making the fluffy Chinese steamed buns just as how I imagined them to be. Using wheat flour numbered 405 bought from the local German grocer, the buns came out perfectly. Please note that low gluten flour (ca. 8 – 11% protein) must be used to make these Chinese steamed buns. If you are in Italy, wheat flour numbered 00 would be the right choice. Otherwise, look for Chinese steamed buns flour which are usually from Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong or China at the Asian grocers.
How to make white Chinese buns?
You may also had noticed that the buns are slightly yellow in colour. This is due to the unbleached flour which was used. Try adding a little bit of vinegar or lemon juice to 'whiten' the dough, if you wish but it is really not necessary. Moreover, in my opinion, the vinegar or lemon juice might be too strong and spoil the original taste of the buns. For guaranteed snowy white steamed buns, look for the flour which are sold at the Asian grocers.
How to steam Chinese buns?
Of course, you may use an electric steamer to prepare these fluffy mantou. If you do not own a steamer, steam them in a wok, pan or pot with the lid on. Add enough water and allow it to boil. Just ensure that the buns are above the water level during the steaming process.
Frozen Chinese buns
If you like to make these buns in advanced, allow them to cool to room temperature after steaming. Then, freeze them. Steam the frozen buns once again for about 8 to 10 minutes before consumption. Once ready, the inside of these steamed buns should be hot and soft.