Reddit user mthmchris and his wife live in Shunde, China — a small city just south of Guangzhou on the Macau side of the delta. He often posts Chinese recipes on Reddit and is currently in the middle of a lockdown, which is meant to safeguard the city from an imminent health risk
In a reddit thread, he shared his views on how one can make the best of their current situation, shared some opinions on "modern" and "fusion" cuisine, provided some quick cooking tips and also listed out a bunch of recipes that have helped his family get through this testing time.
Below is his recipe for Southern Mantou Buns, a classic that he swears by:
Ingredients, Mantou Buns:
Baker's percentages in brackets. I'll try to remember to do this.
- All Purpose Flour (中筋面粉), 200g. For reference the AP we use here in China is 10.8% protein.
- Water, 90g. Divided into two bowls, each with 45g. We'll get to why in a second. [45%]
- Sugar, 20g. [10%]
- Instant Dry Yeast (酵母), 1 tsp. Or 2 grams. [1%]
- Baking Powder (泡打粉), 1 tsp. Or 2 grams. [1%]
And if you end up deep frying these, you'll also want the totally-mandatory condensed milk to dip them in.
Process, Mantou Buns:
- Thoroughly mix the sugar with half the water and the yeast in a separate bowl with the other half. This dough has a lot of sugar and yeast in it. Because a high-sugar environment can actually draw moisture out of and damage yeast, we'll keep these separate for now.
- Sift together the flour and the baking powder.
- Slowly drizzle in the yeast water into the baking powder/flour, aiming for the dry bits. Then do the same with the sugar water. I always like mixing with a single chopstick for this kind of step.
- Knead for eight minutes. Or alternatively in a stand mixer on speed 1 for the same time (dough hook attachment). This is the final consistency you're looking for.
- Cover, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
- Either by hand or using a pasta maker on the widest setting, roll the dough out thin. Fold it in half, then pass it through again - six times in all. This step will get us that classic smooth skin that Southern-style Mantou are known for.
- With the dough in a sheet now, tightly roll it all up into a log, then roll it a touch longer by hand to get something ~25cm long.
- Flour a work surface, place the log on, and gently press down on the bottom. Very gently, just enough to get a bit of an indent in order to get that classic Mantou shape.
- With a sharp knife, slight the roll into eight pieces. Don't try to use a bench scrape for this step - being less sharp, it'd slightly press down on the Mantou and muff up the looks.
- Place the mantou on some squares of parchment paper, then in a steamer. Toss the steamer over a wok filled with 28C water, and proof for 15 minutes. Just for standardization sake.
- Over the same water, swap your flame to medium-high and bring it to a boil. Once you can see steam pluming out of the crack of the steamer, set your timer for five minutes. We're steaming this gently so that the Mantou doesn't rise too fast and form air bubbles on the surface of the skin.
- After that time, shut off the heat and don't peak for five minutes. Then after those five minutes, take them out and enjoy!
Note that one common problem is for the skin of the Mantou to come out a bit wrinkly. This means that you either over-proofed the Mantou or steamed at too high of a heat. It's ok if one or two out of the batch has a couple wrinkles - you'd rather these be overly fluffy than under-fluffy, after all - but make adjustments if it's the whole batch.
How to Deep Fry Mantou:
One of the best things you can do with these southern-style Mantou is deep fry them. A couple cups of oil in a wok, heat it up to 175C. Mantou in, and after about 30 seconds give them a flip. Fry for another minute under golden brown, flipping periodically. Out.
It's a great way to use up slightly stale mantou, and perfect dipped in way too much condensed milk.
And here's a video he made, if you'd like to follow along: