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Mantou + Baozi {vegan}

July 26, 2016 | 21 comments

My mom has magic powers.

One of my favorite memories of China were the many super sketchy (super super sketchy) street vendors who stood with red sticks of candy, freshly roasted burn your mouth sweet potatoes, and stinky tofu by busy streets and market centers during the day (but even more so during the night). In the mornings, it was usually freshly brewed tea eggs, youtiao, soy milk, and baozi. The tea eggs always sat in a huge vat of brown liquid, waiting for a costumer to peal off the shell and reveal the cracked, brown marbling. The vendor next door would be stretching and twisting thin strips of dough and carelessly throwing them into a pot full of hot oil, waiting for it to puff to the size of a cloud and the color of a golden fox. Eager hands would take them and dip them into freshly made soy milk. The baozi were my favorite. Unabashedly white, fluffy, and in most cases, enormously round, they would break apart to reveal a steaming filling, sweet or savory.

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Probably living off of this memory and helplessly homesick, my mom decided to make mantou (pictured above). The recipe is probably as simple as it gets -5 ingredients become carelessly amassed into a pillowly dough and cut into pieces and steamed until billowy and burning hot. Quite like me, my mom never makes following recipes her priority and throws in whatever random thing “might” be okay in the mixture. One day, after hearing the steamer sweetly whistle and the sharp beeping of the timer, my brother and I find steamed buns sitting on the table.

They were bright purple.

And they did not taste good. More like rocks. But the point is, they looked like what one would picture dinosaur eggs looking like except vastly smaller. Somehow, my mother had managed to make bright purple buns without food coloring and to this day, nobody knows what she did to those buns to make them turn purple. I think she did it magically.

More Salt

These buns are magical in their own right!

They taste exactly like regular white bread, without the crust! Why? The crust of a regular baked loaf of bread is formed by a variety of chemical reactions, collectively referred to as the Maillard reactions. This reaction causes browning and becomes noticeable at around 220F or 115C, when a carbohydrate molecule and amino acid react and undergo further changes, forming hundreds of byproducts in the process and creating a complex flavor profile for the crust. However, unless you’re cooking these buns in a pressure cooker, the temperature of steam will not rise above 212 F or 100 C. So the Maillard reactions ever have a chance to occur, making a “magical” crustless bread.

The replacement for this crust is by frying the bun. Sounds counterintuitive but it’s so delicious -kinda like a big fluffy, chewy doughnut all in one. The only place I’ve actually had this was at a restaurant specializing in Peking duck (guys, that feathery ball living in your pond 10 feet away from your house IS DELICIOUS) and they served them (the buns, not the ducks) alternating with plain steamed ones with a tiny bowl of sweetened condensed milk. This is about as desserty as Chinese desserts get. The simplicity of this dessert is gorgeous and the fluffy, barely sweet bun combined with the milkiness of the sweetened condensed milk is unbeatable. My favorite way to eat it by far.

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Another popular way is by stuffing it with red bean paste (which is sweetened beans but it tastes SO GOOD) and steaming them. Breaking into that shiny layer and revealing all the fluffiness of the world, then a sweet patch of red bean paste is beyond amazing. The prettiest is savory though. Hua juan literately translates to flower buns -delecatly sprinkled with salt (hah!), with a careless handful of bright green onions, and beautifully layered, they are the perfect savory snack.

{A note: I’m sure most of you have noticed -I redesigned the blog theme! Hopefully now, it’s easier to navigate and easier to read! My eyes are still surprised every time I see that the margins are not lopsided… I hope you like it and don’t hesitate to tell me what you think!}


// You will notice that this recipe is just an adapted version of my brown butter croissants recipe. Although seemingly unrelated, the dough is a simple slightly enriched baguette dough in each.
// You can make these vegan by using water or some other kind of plant derived milk in place of the cow’s milk.


Mantou + Baozi


  • 316 g 1 1/3 c warm milk
  • 5 g 2 1/2 tsp yeast
  • 25 g 2 tbsp sugar
  • 536 g 3 1/4 c flour
  • 8 g 2 1/2 tsp salt
  • fillings {red bean paste green onions, oil, salt, etc.)


  1. Dissolve the milk in the yeast and add in the sugar. Mix in the flour and the salt. Knead until a smooth dough forms.
  2. Let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Shape according to the directions below (choose one, or split the dough and choose multiple). Let rise for 30 minutes.
  4. Line a steamer with cheesecloth if not using parchment paper. Boil the water and place the buns inside the steamer, careful not to overcrowd.
  5. Steam for 15 minutes and carefully lift the lid and take the buns out.

For mantou

  1. Roll the dough into a long snake, about 1.5 inches in diameter and cut 1 inch wide pieces of dough. Place on small pieces of parchment paper if not using cheesecloth in the steamer.

For the baozi

  1. Follow the method for the mantou but roll each piece into a circle, about 1/2 cm thick. Place 2-3 tsp bean paste inside and seal into a round ball. Place the seam side down on a small piece of parchment paper if not using cheesecloth in the steamer.

For the hua juan

  1. Take the dough and roll it out into a rectangle, a little less than 1/2 cm thick. Lightly spread some oil on top of the dough along with a generous amount of salt. Sprinkle on a handful of chopped green onions and roll the dough starting from the long end (like a cinnamon roll). Cut into 1.5 cm wide pieces. Taking two pieces of dough, stack them on top of one another, the swirlly part facing out. Use a chopstick or a skewer to press down a line down the middle of the top dough (inherently, pressing down a line on the second also). Twist this dough around your thumb so that all the swirly layers are exposed. Place on parrchment pieces if not using cheesecloth to line steamer.


read or add your own

  1. Angela on

    July 27, 2016 at 5:45 am says

    I’ve been browsing your blog for recipes and just really noticed the lovely photography! Do you have any tips for setting up and shooting food photos? Thanks!

    • Anne on

      July 27, 2016 at 8:46 am says

      I am beyond flattered! My “tips” are pretty much the same as anyone else’s -use natural light, get a background or two (a wall or one of those $2 foam boards at walmart), and beyond all else, practice 😉 Also, some might argue that this isn’t necessary, but speaking from one who was using a digital camera for 2 years, a DSLR is a game changer. I hope that helps! 😉

  2. Hira on

    July 28, 2016 at 12:35 pm says

    This looks amazing! One of my friends is trying to go vegan, so these are the perfect treat for when she wants a bread-y fix. I LOVE the new blog design. You’re so talented with computer work! 🙂

    • Anne on

      August 2, 2016 at 8:29 am says

      Aww thanks Hira!

  3. Kevin | Keviniscooking on

    July 28, 2016 at 1:10 pm says

    Oh my! I am so happy to have connected here on our food sites. Love your writing Anne and the photos are beautiful. I would easily take 6 of the fried ones right now please. Do you deliver?

    • Anne on

      August 2, 2016 at 8:30 am says

      Hahhaaa no sorry 😛

  4. Mindy on

    July 28, 2016 at 1:17 pm says

    These look wonderful, all of them!

    • Anne on

      August 2, 2016 at 8:30 am says


  5. Lokness @ The Missing Lokness on

    July 28, 2016 at 2:04 pm says

    Mantou is one of my favorite childhood’s food! Dip that fried mantou in the sweetened condensed milk. Heaven! These look just like the ones from restaurants. Nommmm….. So good!

    • Anne on

      August 2, 2016 at 8:30 am says

      I know right? They’re so good… Thank you Lokness!

  6. Abbe@This is How I Cook on

    July 29, 2016 at 10:11 am says

    Lovely blog, Anne! So glad you commented on mine. Can’t wait to try the real thing in China-my son lives there and we we will be spending three weeks there in September. Can’t wait. Any suggestions?

    • Anne on

      August 2, 2016 at 8:32 am says

      Hhahaa thanks! You have to try the xiao long bao -translated “little dragon buns” but they’re filled with soup and SO COOL.

  7. Fran @ G'day Souffle' on

    August 1, 2016 at 1:52 am says

    Yum, I gotta try this recipe- especially the one with the red bean paste filling!

    • Anne on

      August 2, 2016 at 8:35 am says

      Yess that one is so good 😀

  8. Megan on

    August 1, 2016 at 9:14 pm says

    These look unreal Anne. I am literally salivating as I write this. Mmmmm 🙂

    • Anne on

      August 2, 2016 at 8:37 am says

      Thank you Megan!!

  9. Betty on

    August 5, 2016 at 1:24 pm says

    I love mantou with sweetened condensed milk, so good!

  10. Johanna Xue on

    August 7, 2016 at 4:31 pm says

    I’m Chinese and reading the first paragraph just made me feel sooooo nostalgic, felt like on those late nights a few years ago when we went out with the family and everywhere we saw amazing food, or when it was early in the morning and we got our breakfast from street vendors. And by the way, I just found your blog and I love it so much, wonderful design and pretty pictures, and not last, quality content! <3

  11. Vera on

    August 21, 2016 at 11:50 pm says

    I forgot how I first came to your blog, but your blog are so unique, mainly with your stories that often make me chuckle! I love your blog, and will try some of your recipes-people say they’re good!-the no knead Hokkaido milk bread, the no knead doughnuts, and probably this one. I love the photos, too. Really a nice blog, love it 😀

  12. Kin on

    February 10, 2017 at 7:30 am says

    Hey Anne, I was gonna make this when I realized there was a huge difference between the cup and weight measurement. Did you use US cup or weight your ingredients? I’d love to hear your reply so I can make this soon. Thank:)

    • Anne on

      February 13, 2017 at 10:46 pm says

      Hi Kin! Sorry for the late reply, but when I made this I did both simultaneously! As in I poured flour into a cup and weighed it, just so I could get measurements for you guys. However, as normal people don’t do that, I totally suggest weights but if the dough is too dry, add more water! Likewise, if it’s way too sticky, add flour! (try not to add too much bc wetter dough tends to yield fluffier results)
      Hope you enjoy them!!


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