Mantou sometimes known as Chinese steamed bun, is a kind of steamed bun originating from China. It is typically eaten as a staple in Northern parts of China where wheat rather than rice is grown. Made with milled wheat flour, water and leavening agents, they are similar in nutrition and eating qualities to the white bread of the West. In size and texture, they range from 4 cm, soft and fluffy in the most elegant restaurants, to over 15 cm, firm and dense for the working man's lunch. (As white flour, being more heavily processed, was once more expensive, white mantou were somewhat of a luxury in pre-industrial China.)

Traditionally, mantou, bing, and wheat noodles were the staple carbohydrates of the Northern Chinese diet, analogous to the rice which forms the mainstay of the Southern Chinese diet. Mantou are also known in the south, but are often served as street food or a restaurant dish, rather than as a staple or home cooking. Restaurant mantou are often smaller and more delicate and can be further manipulated, for example by deep-frying and dipping in sweetened condensed milk.

They are often sold pre-cooked in the frozen section of Asian supermarkets, ready for preparation by steaming or heating in the microwave oven.

A similar food, but with a filling inside, is baozi. In some regions, mainly in Southern China, mantou can be used to indicate both the filled and unfilled buns.


There is a popular story in China that the name Mantou actually originated from the identically-pronounced word mántóu meaning "barbarian's head".

This story originates from the Three Kingdoms Period, when the strategist Zhuge Liang led the Shu Army in an invasion of the southern lands (roughly modern-day Yunnan and northern Burma). After subduing the barbarian king Meng Huo, Zhuge Liang led the army back to Shu, but met a swift-flowing river which defied all attempts to cross it. A barbarian lord informed him that, in olden days, the barbarians would sacrifice 50 men and throw their heads into the river to appease the river spirit and allow them to cross; Zhuge Liang, however, did not want to cause any more bloodshed, and instead killed the cows and horses the army brought along and filled their meat into buns shaped roughly like human heads - round with a flat base - to be made and then thrown into the river. After a successful crossing he named the buns "barbarian's head" (mántóu, ), which evolved into the present day mántóu (饅頭).

Variations in meaning outside Northern China

Prior to the Song Dynasty, the word mantou meant both filled and unfilled buns. The term baozi arose in the Song Dynasty to indicate filled buns only. As a result, mantou gradually came to indicate only unfilled buns in Mandarin and other varieties of spoken Chinese. In Mongolia, mantuu are basically the same as the Chinese mantou.

However, in many areas mantou still retains its meaning of filled buns. In the Jiangnan region, mantou usually means both filled and unfilled buns ("baozi").

The name mantou is cognate to manty and mantı; these are filled dumplings in Turkish, Persian, Central Asian, and Pakistani cuisines. In Japan, manjū (饅頭) usually indicates filled buns, which traditionally contain bean paste or minced meat-vegetable mixture (nikuman 肉まん "meat manjū"). Filled mantou are called siopao in Tagalog. In Korea, mandu (饅頭) means jiaozi (餃子).

How to make Banana Mantou


  • 3 Eggs
  • 125 g Sugar
  • 300 g Mashed Bananas
  • 225 g Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 100 g Oil
  • 1/8 tsp Banana Essence

Steps: Sift together flour, baking powder and baking soda, set aside. Whisk together eggs and sugar till fluffy. Mix in bananas and banana essence, beat till combine. Fold in flour mixture and oil. Pour batter into muffin cups. Steam for 15 to 20mins till cooked.

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