Manapua (Spinach or Char Siu)

Posted on by MK Carroll

My post about hand-painting sock yarn and setting it in a bamboo steamer got me to thinking about making manapua (also called bao or Chinese steamed buns). The original recipe for the dough and spinach filling is from The New Chinese Cooking for Health and Fitness, and the char siu filling was adapted from a recipe by Titus Chan that ran in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Dough (makes 20):

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1 tsp active dry yeast
1 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add sugar and salt. When mixture begins to bubble, add the flour and mix well. Knead the dough until soft. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until double (about 1.5 hours). When it has risen, punch down and knead again. Roll into a long snake 2" in diameter and cut into 20 equal pieces. Let rest while you make the filling. Flatten each piece in the palms of your hands and roll into 5" diameter rounds. Leave the center thicker than the edges (will make it easier to fill and shape).

Spinach filling (for 10 manapua)

1/2 lb frozen spinach, thawed and drained

1/2 Tbs toasted sesame oil (the dark stuff)

1 tsp salt

Squeeze as much water as you can out of the spinach.  Mix with sesame oil and salt.

Char siu filling (for 10 manapua)

1 tsp vegetable oil (roughly - I don't measure it)

1/4 pound char siu, diced

1/2 tsp soy sauce (I don't really measure this)

1 tsp oyster sauce (...and I don't really measure this either)

3/4 cup water

2 tsp sesame oil (again, the dark stuff)

1 Tbs cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbs water

Stir-fry the pork and seasonings in oil until hot and bubbly, then add the cornstarch.  Stir until cornstarch thickens. Take off the heat and let cool.

Fill: Lay a flattened round of dough in your left hand (or your right, if you are left-hand dominant) and place filling in the center of the dough. Cup your left hand and fold the edges toward the center with your right hand. Twist the top shut. Put a square of waxed paper on the bottom of the bun and mark the top in some way to let you know which filling is which (a dot of food coloring, for example). Repeat until all are filled. Let rise 10 minutes while you set up the steamer. Lay damp cheesecloth on the bottom of the steamer baskets and arrange buns so that they have space to expand. Steam over high heat for 20 minutes - don't forget to check the water level! Step back after removing the lid and let the steam escape.