Cantonese style savory pork bun sandwiches

Here is a recipe for fluffy Chinese steamed buns or mantou.  Although these buns originated from northern China where wheat-based dishes were more common than rice-based ones, these buns are very popular in Cantonese cuisine.  You can find these buns in the refrigerated section of an Asian grocery store and are usually used to sandwich crispy Peking duck skin.  However, one of my favorite ways to serve these buns is with BBQ pork or char siu.

For many years I just bought the buns, because I thought they were too time consuming to make, but on a trip to Nantucket, my daughter introduced me to an amazing cook who showed me how to make these steamed buns.  My daughter is a very picky foodie who usually doesn't like eating bread so when she said that I needed to try these buns, I was curious.

These steamed buns are different.  The texture is pillowy-soft and fluffy, and the dough doesn't stick to the palate.  

Tips for making Fluffy Chinese Steamed Buns.


This is a yeast dough. Using fresh, instant yeast allows the dough to rise quickly, shortening the resting period.  Even though it is an instant yeast that can be added directly to the flour, dissolving the yeast in the warm milk-water mixture between 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit (40-46 degrees Celsius) quickens the reaction and speeds up the fermentation.  Using milk ensures a richer and "whiter" dough. Plant-based milk can also be used if dairy is not in your diet.

Milk-water mixture.

This milk-water and sugar mixture needs to be between 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit (40-46 degrees Celsius) to jumpstart the yeast reaction.  If you don't have a thermometer to measure the temperature, microwave the milk until boiling and then add room temperature water to the milk and stir.  The mixture should be fairly warm to the touch.

Rolling the dough.

The instant yeast allows the dough to rise quickly. Unlike doughs that are filled, this fluffy Chinese steamed bun dough is rolled thinner to an 1/8 " rather than 1/4".  I use a rolling pin that has measuring bands to ensure a uniform and exact measurement to take the guesswork out of the rolling process.

rolling pin with measuring rings

Rolling pin with measuring rings

After cutting the dough into 1/8" in height circles with a 2 1/16" (78mm) cookie cutter, oil the circles with oil to prevent the halves from sticking to each other.  Fold the circles in half.

Dual sided cookie cutter

Dual sided cookie cutter

Folded mantou

Folded mantou


When steaming the buns, use a bamboo steamer to avoid the steam from dripping onto the buns. Use a silicone steaming liner or cut holes in a piece of parchment paper and place this on the bottom of the steamer to prevent the mantou from sticking to the steamer.

Bamboo steamer 12"

Bamboo steamer 12"

Silicone steamer liners

Silicone steamer liners

If you don't have a bamboo steamer, secure a dish towel to the lid of the metal steamer with the help of binder clips so that the steam is absorbed by the dishtowel rather than dripping onto the buns during steaming.

Steamer with dish towel

Steamer with dish towel

BBQ pork buns sandwiches

One way I like serving these fluffy Chinese steamed buns or mantou is with sliced Chinese BBQ pork, thinly sliced jalapeno peppers, sliced pickled cucumbers marinated in a vinaigrette dressing, some cilantro and hoisin sauce.  Absolutely delicious and makes a great appetizer.

Chinese BBQ Pork Buns with pickled cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno and hoisin sauce.

Chinese BBQ Pork Buns

Storing Fluffy Chinese Steamed Buns.

Once steamed, the plain fluffy Chinese steamed buns can be frozen. Re-steam on a parchment paper when needed for about 10 minutes until completed heated.  

Chinese steamed buns

Chinese steamed buns

Chinese steamed buns


Michelle Sam
Soft and fluffy steamed buns that can be eaten on its own, as a sandwich or filled with a savory or sweet filling.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Resting time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 55 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 24 buns
Calories 80 kcal


  • 400 grams cake flour or all purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 120 ml warm water 105-115 ℉ (40-46 ℃)
  • 120 ml warm milk 105-115 ℉ (40-46 ℃)
  • 2 Tbsp cooking oil.
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • oil for brushing


  • Combine water, milk, and sugar in a container.
    120 ml warm water, 120 ml warm milk, 2 Tbsp sugar
  • Add dry yeast and stir to combine.
    1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • Rest for 20 minutes until bubbly.
  • Add the dry ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer.
    400 grams cake flour or all purpose flour, ½ tsp baking powder, ¼ tsp salt, 1 Tbsp sugar
  • Add oil.
    2 Tbsp cooking oil.
  • Add the liquid yeast mixture into the flour mixture.
  • Using a dough hook, knead the dough until well combined, soft and pliable. (10 mins)
  • On a floured surface, briefly knead the dough into a ball and allow to rest for 1 hour or until double in size.
  • Knead the dough again and roll the dough until ⅛" (.32 cm) in height.
  • Using a 3 1/16" (78mm) cookie dough cutter, cut the dough into circles.
  • Collect the dough scraps, knead the excess dough, roll and cut dough circles until all the dough is used up.
  • Lightly oil each circle with a brush and fold in half.
    oil for brushing
  • Allow to rest until the dough rises a little (15 minutes).
  • Steam for 8-10 minutes. If not using a bamboo steamer, make sure that the steam doesn't drip back onto the buns in the steamer by covering the lid of the steamer with a dish-towel, securing the towel ends onto the lid (or with binder clips.) This will allow the steam to be absorbed into the dish towel. Enjoy!



Serving: 1bunCalories: 80kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 2gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0.2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.005gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 36mgPotassium: 27mgFiber: 0.5gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 8IUCalcium: 14mgIron: 1mgNet Carbohydrates: 14g
Keyword Cantonese plain steamed buns, steamed buns
Tried this recipe?Let me know how it was or if you have any questions or suggestions!
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