I’m thrilled to be a part of the November edition of Angela’s year-long Breakfast in Bed event. The event focuses on inexpensive vegan breakfast recipes that require less than $20 for ingredients. I would like to thank the lovely Angela for organizing this event.
One of the most common and least expensive breakfast options you’ll find in Taiwan are steamed buns (known as mantou in Chinese). They are available plain, filled or subtly flavored in colorful varieties of doughs. Typically paired with a warm glass of soya bean milk, these buns often make a quick, hearty breakfast or snack for people of all ages. Mantou are available at vendors on nearly every street corner in Taiwan along many parts of Asia with a Chinese population.
If you’ve ever tried Chinese filled buns (baozi) at a dim sum restaurant, then you’ll notice that these mantou have the same texture and consistency since it’s virtually the same dough. Mantou are often recognizable for their puffed cloud-shaped appearance and may be available in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most common varieties of mantou are plain, taro and scallion. My recipe uses seasonal potatoes to provide an added vibrancy and unique flavor.
Traditional buns are something I have made for years, the filled and the unfilled versions, and I hope to share more recipes for buns on Vegan Miam.
The buns I’m sharing with you today are my Vegan Steamed Purple Potato & Chia Buns (Mantou) – they are homemade, delicious, light, fluffy and filling. I added chia seeds for a bit of added texture and nutrition. Warm up some freshly made nut or soy milk for dipping and you’re good to go! You can also find frozen mantou at your local Asian supermarkets, just be careful since most of them contain dairy (i.e., whey or milk powder).
I used the non-GMO Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes from Frieda’s Inc for this recipe, but any type of sweet potatoes, winter squashes or Japanese yams will work. Grown in California and in season through the winter (November & December), these mildly sweet potatoes provided a bold color to my buns.
Now, I’m not the most skilled when it comes to working with my dough and shaping it. I attempted to give my buns a bit of a flower shape but I think my flowers are a bit abstract. Fortunately whether or not they look like flowers won’t affect the flavor. Do your best and enjoy twisting this dough into delicious buns.
Tip: I used a bamboo steamer basket for the recipe. It should sit snugly in a wok or a pot. Add a bit of water, about 2-3 inches deep. Stainless steamer pots or steamer insert (that fits in your pot) will also work great if you don’t have a bamboo steamer basket. I’ve never tried a gluten-free flour for this recipe, but if I do, I will let you know how they turn out. Or if you have already attempted to make gluten-free mantou, I would love to hear about it.
Vegan Steamed Purple Potato & Chia Buns (Mantou)
Yield: 15 buns
- 11 ½ ounces (325g) purple sweet potato
- 2 ¾ teaspoons active dry yeast
- ½ cup + 2 tablespoons (150mL) unsweetened dairy-free milk, at room temperature
- ½ cup organic cane sugar (granulated)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (250g), plus more for dusting
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- pinch of sea salt
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds (optional)
- 2 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
Peel the potatoes and rinse well. Cut the potatoes lengthwise in half and peel some skin off. Proceed to chop the potatoes into approximately 1-inch cubes. Put the potatoes in the rack of a steamer over boiling water and steam for 15 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, cut out at least fifteen 4-inch squares of parchment paper for your steamed buns. Drain the potatoes and mash finely in a bowl or put potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer for a finer mash.
In a small bowl, combine yeast, milk and sugar. Stir until thoroughly blended and set aside to proof the yeast for about 10 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the yeast mixture into flour mixture. Knead with your hands until well combined, about 3 minutes. Add mashed potato and the (optional) chia seeds. Continue to knead until well combined and form into a ball. Add more flour if dough is to sticky to work with. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and brush it with oil. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours
Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, divide the dough into 5 equal pieces. Roll the pieces into logs, then cut each log into 3 equal pieces (about 50g each). Roll each piece into a ball. Cover the dough balls with plastic wrap and allow them to rest and rise for 30 minutes.
Working with one piece at a time, flatten one ball with the palm of your hand, then use a rolling pin to roll the dough in an oval shape about 1/4-inch thick. Using a soft pastry brush or fingers, rub a thin layer of vegetable oil over the rolled dough. With a sharp knife, make several vertical slits but not all the way to the edges (about 1/4-inch apart), then pick up the dough and gently twist into a knot. Form the knot into a ball, tucking the ends in underneath. Then place your finished ball of dough on one of the pre-cut 4” squares of parchment paper you prepared earlier . Cover with plastic wrap and form the rest of the buns. Let the buns rise for an hour.
Meanwhile, set up a steamer on the stovetop and get the water to boil over medium high heat. Working in batches, steam the buns for 10 minutes without overcrowding. Allow them to cool on a wire rack before serving.
Advance preparation: To freeze the buns, place them in sealable plastic bags or airtight containers and ensure the parchment paper is attached to the buns. Freeze for up to 6 months. To reheat frozen buns, let the buns thaw for several minutes and steam for 2 to 3 minutes until warm and soft. Keeping the parchment paper attached to your frozen buns will make it easier and cleaner to reheat them.