Mantou Buns: From Steam Engines to Steamed Buns

In the 1800s, Chinese immigration significantly influenced Oregon’s development, especially during the construction of the railroad. Motivated by hopes for a brighter tomorrow, they played pivotal roles in building the Transcontinental Railroad. Their hard work not only accelerated the railroad’s expansion but also left a lasting mark on the American Spirit, culture, and cuisine.

In Chinese cuisine lies this beloved staple: Mantou buns.

What is a Mantou?

A Chinese steamed bun, known for its pillowy soft texture and versatility, the Mantou is often served with soups and stews. But often it is enjoyed as a snack all on its own. Traditionally a staple food item, the Mantou bun is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune in Chinese culture. The name “Mantou” is said to derive from a tale taking place during the Three Kingdoms period. It is said that a general named Zhuge Liang developed the bun as a solution to food shortages. And they have a bit of a darker side to them, too. The word “mantou” translates to “barbarian’s head”, attributed to their shape resembling the head of a barbarian in ancient times.

Who doesn’t love a little bit of legend with their soup or stew? The Mantou is still a must on home and restaurant menus and are the perfect comfort food! And your children are bound to love the barbarian tidbit. 😂

Mantou Fillings

Mantou can be left plain, but savory or sweet filling takes them to the next level! These are just a few ideas to get you started, but you can fill Mantou with pretty much anything. Experiment with your favorite ingredients to create unique and delicious Mantou fillings!

Sweet Fillings:

Custard: Smooth and creamy custard filling adds a luxurious sweetness to Mantou. This recipe would be perfect for turning Mantou into an afternoon snack or breakfast food.

Nutella: Indulge in a rich and decadent sweet treat. Turn your Mantou into dessert by filling them with Nutella. You can even make your own copy-cat Nutella if you want to avoid the store-bought.

Peanut butter: Spread creamy peanut butter inside Mantou for a protein filled quick bite on the go.

Fruit preserves: Experiment with your favorite fruit preserves like strawberry, raspberry, or apricot for a fruity burst of flavor.

Savory Fillings:

BBQ pork: Tender pieces of sweet and savory BBQ pork lend a delicious contrast to Mantou. Experiment with sauces and add in some coleslaw for an extra crunch!

Curry chicken: Spicy curry chicken filling adds a flavorful kick and makes a fantastic family-favorite dinner.

Vegetables: Sautéed or steamed vegetables like mushrooms, carrots, and cabbage make a nutritious and tasty filling option.

Shrimp: Seasoned shrimp filling provides a delicate seafood flavor that pairs really well with Mantou.

Make Your Own Mantou!

Oil free, dairy free:

Many Mantou recipes call for vegetable oil or a flavorless oil, but we found this oil free and dairy free Mantou recipe you have to try!

Only four ingredients:

Keeping it simple, this four ingredient recipe makes putting Mantou on the table last minute totally possible!

Tips: Both recipes call for using a bamboo steam basket, you can opt for a stainless steel steamer. However, remember to wrap the lid with a cloth to absorb the condensation.

Happy Mantou Munching!