Today I’ll teach you how to make Lotus Leaf/Mantou buns. This is the white steamed bread bun that looks like a half moon, usually seen in Chinese restaurants. It is smooth, fluffy, slightly sweet, and tastes somewhat milky even though there is no milk in my recipe. You can definitely replace the water with milk but I am happy with this recipe straight up as it is. It took a lot of trials to get this recipe right and I think this is just perfect the way it is.
These buns are a traditional Chinese accompaniment to dishes such roast pork or roast duck. Gua Bao, famous in Taiwan, is one style which uses pork belly. A lotus leaf bun by itself is called a “he ye bing” but with filings is called a “he ye bao”. They are found all across China, Singapore, Taiwan, and Hong kong. I was told by my co worker that a traditional Chinese breakfast is a piece of this plain bun and soy milk. Sounds delicious!
You might also notice that this is the same dough used for char siu bao, manapua, and siopao – the pork filled meat buns popular all over Asia. You can definitely wrap it around a spoonful of barbecued pork to make the buns. Steaming time remains the same even when filled.
I always use my Thermomix to make my bread dough as it mixes it and kneads it in about 5 minutes. Then the dough is ready for it’s first rise. I find that I’m willing make breads, pizzas, cookies, and such at a moment’s notice since getting the first Thermomix about a couple of years ago.
I also included directions for making this recipe without the Thermomix, so that anyone who wants to try can make this.
240 grams water
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
40 grams sugar
500 grams all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
1. Place water, yeast, and sugar in the Thermomix bowl. Cover and set to 2 minutes/37F/speed 2.
2. Add flour, baking powder, oil, and salt. Cover and set to Knead/3 minutes, checking occasionally through the hole in the lid if the dough needs more water or flour.
3. Set aside in the bowl, covered with a clean dish cloth, for 1 hour or until doubled.
*To make without a Thermomix: place yeast, sugar, and water in a large bowl and stir. Add flour, baking powder, oil, and salt. Stir until dough comes together. Transfer to a floured board and knead 8-10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Place in a large bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Continue with the recipe.*
4. Divide dough into 12 equal sized balls. I usually weigh the whole dough and divide the number I get by 12. Then I weigh the individual dough balls to get the same sized buns. Rest the dough balls, covered with a clean dish cloth, for about 10 minutes. This makes it easier to work with the dough as the gluten relaxes a bit.
5. Roll out the balls, one at a time, on a clean surface very lightly dusted with flour, into a circle about 5 inches in diameter. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Fold in half and place on a square of parchment paper. Place this in the steamer basket and repeat with remaining dough balls. Make sure to leave about 1-2 inch space between the dough as it expands a lot when steamed.
*You can also brush the dough with canola or sesame oil before folding over. This makes it easier to open the bread to make sandwiches. If you do this, brush only half of each circle very lightly with oil, then fold the other half over it.*
6. Cover the buns and let rise for about 1 hour.
7. Prepare steamer by heating water over medium high heat. When it comes to a rolling boil, carefully place the steaming baskets with the dough over the boiling pot of water and cover. Steam for 20 minutes. Turn heat off and leave, covered, for 5 minutes more. Do not open the steamer or the bread will collapse and be wrinkly instead of smooth. At least that’s what I was told. I never opened my steamer before the 5 minutes was over so I can’t tell you if it’s true. 😊
8. Remove buns to wire racks and cool completely.
9. Fill with your choice of filling: roasted pork belly, roasted duck, char siu pork, etc. or just use as the bread to make any regular sandwich you like!