Soft and fluffy spiral mantou (steamed buns) are favorites from kids to adult. They are fun to make and have a super soft fluffy texture and pretty spiral patterns.
MILK SPIRAL MANTOU RECIPE
Mantou or Chinese plain steamed bun was my childhood favorite and still is. I remember having that for afternoon tea snacks. It’s like the soft and fluffy steamed buns, but have the half-circle shape. Mantou is a staple of the Chinese. It can be eaten on its own or with some sweet spread like jams, condensed milk, etc or to accompany savory dishes. Mantou can be steamed or deep-fried too. This version I made here is spiral mantou. A spiral pattern is created by using doughs with two different colors: one plain dough and one matcha dough. It’s a great way to add more visual and to infuse flavors.
IDEAS FOR COLORS AND FLAVORS
I suggest sticking with the powder form of flavoring for ease and simplicity. You only need to make one dough that you can split into two equal portions and add flavoring to one of them. If you want to use liquid or mashed veggies like beet juice, mashed pumpkin, you will need to make two doughs separately instead of making one main dough.
FOR NATURAL FLAVOR AND COLORING:
GREEN: Matcha powder
RED/PINK : Beetroot powder
CHOCOLATE: Cocoa powder
BLACK: Charcoal powder, black sesame seeds powder
Of course alternatively, you can always use gel food coloring
HOW TO SHAPE BASIC MANTOU AND SPIRAL MANTOU STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
FOR BASIC MANTOU
Just roll the big dough into a long log and cut into 8 equal portions with a sharp serrated knife.
FOR SPIRAL MANTOU
1. SPLIT BASIC DOUGH INTO TWO AND ADD FLAVOR OR COLOR TO ONE OF THEM
You can also color both of the dough if you want. I just stick with plain dough on one of them for simplicity reason
2. ROLL MATCHA DOUGH INTO A THIN RECTANGLE
3. ROLL THE PLAIN DOUGH INTO A THIN RECTANGLE TOO, ABOUT THE SAME SIZE WITH MATCHA DOUGH
4. PLACE THE PLAIN DOUGH ON TOP OF THE MATCHA DOUGH (YOU CAN DO THE OTHER WAY AROUND TOO)
Roll them with rolling pin into thinner dough, keeping them relatively the same size
5. STARTING FROM THE SIDE NEAR YOU, ROLL THEM UP TIGHTLY INTO A LONG LOG
6. CUT INTO 9 EQUAL PORTIONS
IMPORTANT NOTE: Use a serrated knife (like a bread knife) to cut. I used to use dough cutter and it’s not a cleaner cut and the pattern is also “skewed” because of the cut is not clean.
Place the cut spiral mantou on parchment papers. Cover with a clean cloth and place at a warm place to let them rise to about 50% their original sizes. Do not overproof the dough or your mantou will wrinkle and not as smooth. Proceed to steaming as directed in the recipe below
WHAT TO SERVE WITH MANTOU
Plain mantou can be eaten with sweet spread like fruit jam, 10-minute kaya jam, or plain. Mantou can be served with savory dishes too, just like in the Western culture, where bread or rolls are served as a side dish.
My kids love any kind of steamed buns, but these…they love these even more! Perhaps it’s the spiral of colors? These buns are just slightly sweet. The kids love to eat them on their own without any spread!
HOW TO MAKE SOFT AND FLUFFY MANTOU WITH NO WRINKLES
I wrote at length in this How to Make Soft and Fluffy Asian Steamed Buns on how you can make soft and fluffy steamed buns without wrinkles if you are interested to read more. In a nutshell, these are what you need to do:
1. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic
2. Start with room temperature milk so the yeast won’t work so quickly producing all the gas and bubbles while you are shaping the mantou
3. Do not overproof the mantou
4. Steam over LOW heat (yes, you read this right, LOW heat. I can’t stress the importance or this enough!)
5. Let the steamed mantou sit in the steamer for 1 minute before opening the lid
Recipe was originally published in 2017 and now updated with new photos and improved recipes and details.
Soft and Fluffy Spiral Mantou (Chinese Steamed Buns)
PREPARE PLAIN AND MATCHA DOUGHS:
- Place the flour, instant yeast, sugar, and cooking oil in a mixing bowl. If you are using a stand mixer, use a dough hook attachment. Gradually add in milk. You may need more than 150 ml or not. Add more teaspoon by teaspoon until the dough comes together and continue to knead for 5 minutes. If you are kneading by hands, about 10 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky and smooth
- Divide the dough into two equal portions. Keep one of the dough covered with plastic wrap. Put the other dough back to the mixing bowl. Add matcha powder and knead until the color is distributed throughout the dough
HOW TO SHAPE MANTOU:
- Line your work surface with a parchment paper or silicone mat. Place matcha dough on top. Roll matcha dough into about 12 x 8 inch rectangle using a rolling pin
- Now we are going to roll out another dough, so prepare another parchment paper or silicon mat. Place the plain dough on top and roll it out into about the same size as the matcha dough
- Flip the plain dough on top of the matcha dough. Remove the silicon mat or parchment paper. Use a rolling pin to gently roll them out again into thinner dough
- Roll the dough up, starting from the side near you into a long log
- Use a serrated knife like bread knife to cut into 8 pieces of mantou. I used to use dough cutter and that is a bad idea as it doesn't give a very "clean" cut. We need a sharp knife
- Place this freshly cut mantou on top of parchment paper (seam side down)
- Cover and let them proof. They won't necessarily double in size, but at least puff up to about 50% of original size. This may take about 15 mins at warm temperature. Do not overproof your dough
- Most likely your steamer won't be able to accommodate steaming all buns at one go. You may need to steam in 2-3 batches, which means, the rest of the batches will sit longer and continue to proof while waiting for the steamer. Not good for the buns! Here's what you can do: Make sure the cover them with plastic wrap and then place them in the refrigerator to slow down the yeast activity or halt it all together until they are ready to be steamed
- Bring the water in your steamer to a boil. Wrap the lid of your steamer with a kitchen towel to prevent moisture dripping back on the steamed buns as this will create "burn" spots
- LOWER THE HEAT TO LOW (Yes, I type this in caps so you don't miss it!). Place the buns in there, leaving about 1-inch space in between and steamed on LOW heat for 5 minutes
- After 5 minutes, turn off the heat. DO NOT OPEN THE LID of the steamer. Let the buns sit there for 1 minute like this. The buns will not sink or wrinkle due to the sudden change in temperature
- Remove the buns to wire rack to let them cool down. This is to ensure the bottom of the steamed buns will not be wet and soggy
- If you make extra and plan to store them, place them on a baking sheet, not touching each other, and then put the entire tray inside the freezer for about 1 hour. They will harden, but not completely frozen yet. Transfer to a freezer bag and they will not stick to each other anymore. Try not to keep for more than 1 month
- They can go straight from freezer to steamer when you ready to eat them. Steam on high heat for 5 minutes and they are as good as new