It you're not familiar with Chinese New Year, hear are some things to get you started. First, Chinese New Year is based on the lunar calendar of the New Year. This year, the first day of the lunar calendar was February 8th. And also, this year is the year of the snake. So there you go.
This year, I'm making a bunch of Chinese food to celebrate, but it'll be kind of hard since my mom is in China. I really wish that I could have gone to China with her, but I have school to worry about :(. Whatever, I'm going to have some good Chinese food nevertheless.
Steamed buns (pronounced mantou or Mahn-tow in Chinese) have always been a favorite food of mine. Partly because they're so simple. They can be made with just flour, sugar, milk, and yeast, and you can fill them with lots of different fillings like red bean paste and pork. I prefer eating them plain or with a bit of honey on top. I made two batches of dough, one sweeter one and one less sweet one. The less sweet one I filled with a traditional tofu, noodle, vegetable filling. Stuffed mantous are actually called Baozi.
My grandma makes the best mantous in the world. I can practically inhale them. The recipe I used is hers, but some translation were kind of hard to make. To measure the milk, my grandma just uses a bowl and to measure the flour, she doesn't spoon and level like a lot of people do. This recipe is pretty accurate and makes perfect steamed buns. Another side note: to have pure white, idealistic mantous, you'll have to use bleached flour. I use unbleached flour, so they are not as white.
Mantous are really easy to make. It takes about 15 minutes to make the dough, 2-3 hours to rise, and 10 minutes to steam, though. You can make the dough in a bread machine on the dough setting or by hand.
|If you have a bread machine, put all the ingredients in the pan and set the machine to the dough cycle.|
|Otherwise, dissolve sugar in milk and sprinkle yeast on top. Let sit 5 minutes.|
|Stir in egg.|
|Add flour and knead into a dough.|
|Make a filling (optional)|
These are perfect for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even desert. They are so versatile. I love eating them plain for breakfast, with savory filling for lunch/ dinner, and with red bean paste in the middle for dessert. They are so delicious and I never get tired of them.
大 吉 大 利!
Steamed Buns 馒头
makes about 15 buns
1 cup warm milk (I used 2 percent)
1 tsp yeast
2 tbs to 1/3 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
1 egg (optional)
1 lb. flour (about 3 1/2 cups)
- If using a bread machine, place all ingredients in pan in order suggested by the manufacturer. Set the machine to the dough setting. Check after 10 minutes to make sure that the dough is firm and smooth, and add milk or flour if necessary. After the machine finishes, take the risen dough out, knead it a bit, and put it back in the machine for a second rise until it's double again. Go to step 3.
- If kneading by hand: mix sugar into milk and sprinkle yeast on top. Let sit 5 minutes until frothy. Then stir in egg and slowly add flour while stirring until a dough forms. Knead on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and firm, about 10 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with a moist towel or plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until double, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Take the dough out, knead it a bit, and put it back in the bowl to rise until doubled again-- another hour or so.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface. Divide in half and roll into 2 logs. If making plain buns, cut the logs into 15 equal pieces and leave the pieces as is. If adding filling (recipe below), divide into 15 pieces and roll each piece into a ball. Flatten the ball with your fingers so that is is a flat circle. Place a spoonful of filling into the middle and wrap the sides of the dough over it.
- Place dough pieces about 1 inch apart into steamer pans lined with a moist towel. Place over boiling water and cover the pans with a lid. Steam buns for 10 minutes, then remove.
- Eat warm, with honey if desired, or refrigerate for later. Reheat by steaming them again for 5-10 minutes, or by putting a wet napkin over a couple and microwaving for 30 seconds per bun. Enjoy!
Vegetable Tofu Filling
makes enough to fill about 15 baozi or 20 dumplings
1/2 tsp minced ginger
2 shiitake mushrooms, diced
1/4 cup frozen corn kernels
1/4 cup diced carrots
about 1 cup chopped Chinese chives
45g 5-spice flavored very firm tofu, diced (a little less than 1/4 of the package, about 1/2 cup)
about 1 cup of vermicelli or cellophane noodles, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and cut into small pieces
3 water chestnuts, skinned and diced (I used canned)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chicken bouillon powder
2tsp to 2 tbs sesame oil (to taste)
2 tbs water
- Heat oil in a pan. Add ginger and saute. Add mushrooms, corn, carrots, chives, and tofu. Saute until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add noodles and water chestnuts, then stir in seasonings and water.
- Remove from heat and let cool before using it to fill baozi or dumplings.