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This recipe is listed in the "Northern Asian" (Chinese-Dim Sum), "Dumplings" (sweet), and "Breads" sections of the YaleCooks recipe collection.

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Steamed Buns Filled with Sweet Red Bean Paste: (version #1; makes 15 buns)

First added: 2012-07-23; Last edited: 2012-11-01

Author: Stephen Chin-Bow (Yale College).  This recipe is dedicated to my nephew Michael.  May your life be blessed with treats like dumplings with sweet fillings.

Background: I will convert this recipe to also use weights, when I buy an accurate digital balance.

If I remember I will take photos the next time I make "steamed buns filled with sweet red bean paste".

Before you make this recipe try to make plain, unfilled, Chinese steamed buns ("mantou").  When you are happy with the softness and fluffiness of your mantou you are ready to fill them with sweet red bean paste and other savory fillings.

The dough for this recipe is very similar to mantou recipe version #3.  The changes were made to make the measurements easier, and also to show that cooking does not have to be exact.  Small to medium sized changes often do not make a significant difference.

Please let me know if you have suggestions for improving this recipe!

Essential Supplies & Ingredients: (makes FIFTEEN 3 inch filled steamed buns; see "Other Options")

folding metal steamer (any "steaming" setup should work)
• 10.5 inch diameter, pot (with cover); a 9.5 inch "collapsing" steamer expands fully in this pot
• 2 inch waxed paper squares (15 needed)

• 3 cups self-rising flour (brand tested: Aunt Gemima; contains "single-acting" baking powder)
• 3 teaspoons baking powder ("Clabber Girl" double-acting)
• 3 tablespoons sugar

• 2/3 cup water
• 3 tsp white vinegar

• flour for dusting (about 3 or 4 Tbsp)

• 15-18 oz sweet red bean paste (one-half the YaleCooks recipe or one can of commercial paste)


To make the dough follow the instructions for mantou recipe version #3.

Divide the dough into 15 evenly sized balls (adjusting the balls if necessary, by removing and combining dough).  Flatten a dough ball until it is a 3 to 4 inch diameter disk (slightly thicker in the middle).  Place 2 T filling in the middle of the dough.  [Recipe math: 16 oz = 2 cups = 32 Tablespoons total]  Fold over the dough, squeezing opposite side together three or four times, sealing the bun.  Place on a small 2-3 inch square of waxed paper.

When the water is at a full boil (a lot of steam is easily seen) uncover the pot.  Add five filled buns to the steamer.  Cover and steam for 10 minutes.  Remove from pot, and steam the second and third batches the same way.  Enjoy!

Other Options:

If your steamer is not large then you can make 16 slightly smaller buns and steam in batches of four buns.

This recipe was developed using Aunt Gemima self-rising flour, which contains a "single-acting" leavening agent (monocalcium phosphate and sodium bicarbonate), but I am confident other self-rising flours (even those which use "double-acting" baking powder) can be used.

Homemade steamed buns filled with sweet red bean paste are probably best if eaten fresh, just out of the steamer.  However, if you are busy, or are bringing these buns to a party, they should microwave well.  These buns freeze well, but the texture is slightly better if you first let the buns defrost before you heat them in the microwave.

Tricks and Other "Secrets":

Remember to give you buns a lot of room to expand.  The biggest mistake is to crowd the steamer too much.

Assessment and Possible Improvements:

I have made this recipe twice, and I am very happy with the results.

Sifting the flour (aerating the flour and possibly reducing the size of the flour grains) may improve the texture, but the dough is already very soft and fluffy.

Making larger, but still soft, mantou may be possible if your pot/wok makes really good steam.  I imagine the problem with making large mantou is that more heat is needed to penetrate to the center of the bun and cook the dough.

Adding yeast to the dough may improve the fluffiness of the buns.  I will report back on using yeast (or a "starter") if I have any useful insights to share.

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