Chinese Steamed Buns (Mantou) with Fenugreek


So finally I have got myself to write about my Mantou, some Chinese steamed buns I baked a few weeks ago. I am doing it tonight because my dear friend Sandra is just closing the monthly collection on ethnic breads for Panissimo, so here I am writing even if I should really go rest a lttle.

These buns were then inspired by another (truly dear) friend of mine, Chinese indeed and from the Northern part of China where Mantou are a staple. There is a lot of history, of personal history, behind these buns. And if I close my eyes I can recollect some of the thousand times I have seen my friend having the steamed buns with her lunch. She has always been very fond of them. And I could never understand how. In their proper version Mantou are tasteless: no salt nor sugar are added. On top of it, they have no crust and their crumb is rather dense. Still, my friend loved them so much that she got me interested. Have to say that I did like the savory filled version of the Mantou, which is delicious and very tasty. My friend does not like to remember this episode, but I will never forget the time she actually put some freshly baked Mantou filled with steamy pork in my bag as a precious gift… just before a lecture. The scent was so strong I did not know where to hide… and of course I made fun of her forever for this (what a friend I am!). Anyway, these buns, filled or plain, have accompanied us all the way through our friendship. So when she mentioned that she was not happy with her Mantou baking skills I felt compelled to help out.


Incidentally, my friend happens to have a father who has diabetes, so I though of trying out a version of Mantou her mom could bake and which include a spice, fenugreek, who is supposedly a very strong antidiabetic (the effects of fenugreek bread are undergoing serious scientific scrutiny). She was very excited at the idea and said that my spiced buns, although different, tasted delicious. Should I trust an old friend who always tries to be nice?



230 g all-purpose flour
160 g finger warm milk
1 teaspoon caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
18 g (ca 3 teaspoon) ground fenugreek seeds
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and let sit for 5 minutes
2. Add remaining ingredients and knead until the dough is elastic and smooth
3. Let rest covered until the dough has risen about 1.5 times its original volume
4. Divide the dough in 2 and make 1 log out of each piece. Divide then each log into 7 pieces and shape as buns and let them rest, covered for a hour or until they have risen 1.5 times their initial volume
5. Place the buns over little squares of baking paper and place the pieces of paper and the buns over a steamer grid placed over a pot with water (make sure the water does not overflow out of the gid)
6. Cover tightly with a lid and cook on the stove on moderate-high heat for 20 minutes
7. Remove from the stove and wait for further 5 minutes before removing the lid

Note: original Mantou contain no salt, nor sugar, nor fenugreek and use water instead of milk, try both versions and compare, it’s fun!


With this bread I participate to Panissimo, a monthly bread showcase created by moi and Sandra and hosted this month by Sandra from Sono Io Sandra.

And… I am happy to participate also to the sparkling monthly showcase of my talented friend Wisla, Sourdough and Yeast (Na zakwasie i na drożdżach).

The following two tabs change content below.

Barbara Elisi

Hi there! I am the "soul" behind Bread & Companatico. My main interest is the preservation of bread tradition and craft, with an eye to health. I hope you are having a good time reading this blog, and please don't be shy to connect with me through comments or emails and do keep on bread-ing! 🙂

Latest posts by Barbara Elisi (see all)

7 replies
  1. Che Foodzeit
    Che Foodzeit says:

    I agree with you. the original Mantou has no taste. Few breads deriving from China really come up to our taste. Also the Baozi always left me disappointed. But I think your idea of adding some spice to it is very unique and a good way to make something out of the Mantou. Well done I would say, and I am sure your can convince your friend by trying a few more Chinese influenced spices such as star anise…?

  2. Simona
    Simona says:

    Dalla foto si vede una mollica delicata. Dopo aver letto il tuo post sono curiosa. Magari e’ la volta buona che mi faccio tentare dai cestelli al vapore cinesi.

  3. andreamynard
    andreamynard says:

    They look delicious and I do fancy the pork filled version too. Really interested to see these as have been experimenting with Chinese food lately, partly inspired by my daughter making Chinese dumplings at school for Chinese New year. Kale ‘seaweed’ is my current passion too – would be great with these buns and Chinese style pork.

  4. Fabiana-fabipasticcio
    Fabiana-fabipasticcio says:

    Amazing story of a friendship and of buns.
    You’re a truly talented bread maker.
    These buns are more special because of the friendship memories.
    I will read the scientific work about fenugreek, since reducing the sugar level in bloos is very important not only for diabetic people, but for everyone…too much hidden sugar…
    Have a nice week and smile 😀

  5. narf77
    narf77 says:

    These look really fantastic :). I haven’t been baking anything lately, let alone bread, as it has been FAR too hot to even want to cook here in Tasmania but I am assured that there is only 40 days till our autumn starts and I am just hanging out waiting for this heatwave to break so that I can get back to the slow progression of baking that makes every day feel “right”. Cheers for this delicious share and can’t wait for Panissimo this time 🙂


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *