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Sheng Jian Mantou {Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Buns}

by Shirley
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Sheng Jian Mantou {Easy Authentic Huai Yang Style}

Sheng Jian Mantou {生煎馒头} or short for Sheng Jian, also known as pan-fried pork buns, is a traditional Huai Yang style food native to China’s Yangtze River Delta area. They are especially popular in cities such as Shanghai and Suzhou.

Sheng Jian features dumpling size round buns filled with tasty pork fillings. “Sheng” means “raw” in Chinese, “Jian” means “pan fry”. People pan-fry these pork round buns first and then finish up cooking by steaming. As a result, Sheng Jian Mantou has a crispy bottom but soft top.

Authentic style Sheng Jian Mantou has a firm bite texture wrapper and juicy pork filling that has a hint of sweetness.

Sheng Jian Mantou {Easy Authentic Way}
Sheng Jian {Easy Authentic Way}

The iconic firm bite texture comes from a semi-leavened dough that provides a satisfying firm bite, but still enough sponginess. Huai Yang style absolutely adores dough that offers a firm bite texture. It gives you this refreshing feel and taste. The classic Yang Chun noodle is another example of this.

Pork filling with a hint of sweetness is very typical of Huai Yang style. Shanghai Soup Dumplings and Pork Sweet Rice Flour Dumplings are just a couple of examples.

Growing up in Suzhou, Sheng Jian is one of my favorite breakfast items.

How to make Sheng Jian Mantou Easy Authentic Way from scratch?

Sheng Jian Mantou Ingredients
Sheng Jian Mantou Ingredients

Make the Optimal Dough:

Make a smooth dough using the ingredients listed under “For the Dough”. Read here for a detailed step-by-step on how to make a yeast dough for buns. Note we use less active yeast for a semi-leavened dough for Sheng Jian.

Cover the mixing bowl with a damp kitchen towel and let it rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature. You can use the time to do prep work including get the pork filling ready.

This means you can make the wrapper as soon as you have completed the prep work. Do not let the dough leaven for longer than that. The dough will continue to leaven as we make wrappers and wrap the buns, both take time.

Make the Perfect Pork Filling:

See here for a step-by-step tutorial on how to make tasty pork filling for buns and dumplings.

To adapt to Sheng Jian’s authenticity, use 2 tsp sugar for every pound of pork and add 2 tbsp Sweet Fermented Bean Paste {Tian Mian Jiang 甜面酱}. This helps the extra savory taste with a hint of sweetness, exactly what we want for Sheng Jian.

Pork Filling on a Sheng Jian Wrapper
Pork Filling on a Sheng Jian Wrapper

Prepare Sheng Jian Wrappers:

We use the same method as the dumpling wrappers and use the same 3.5-inch diameter cookie cutter to cut the dough sheet into rounds. Read here for a detailed step-by-step tutorial.

The differences between making Sheng Jian wrappers vs. dumpling wrappers are: we are using a semi-leavened dough, and we make the wrapper slightly thicker than that of dumplings.

For the KitchenAid Stand Mixer pasta maker attachment, I use setting 2 for Sheng Jian, instead of 4 for Shanghai Soup Dumplings and 3 for Jiao Zi {Northern China Boiled Dumplings}.

Wrap Sheng Jian Mantou:

Authentic Sheng Jian Mantou is dumpling-size round buns. They are similar in size to Shanghai soup dumplings but use thicker semi-leavened dough wrappers instead of thinner regular dough wrappers. They are round instead of pleated buns.

See here for a detailed easy to follow tutorial on how to wrap Sheng Jian easy authentic way.

Wrap Sheng Jian Step Five
Wrap Sheng Jian Mantou

Cook Sheng Jian Mantou:

Turn the heat to medium and heat a hard-anodized fry-pan for 1 minute, add 2 tsp avocado oil, and spread evenly using a mini rubber spatula.

Add Sheng Jian to the pan, leave a bit of room in between for them to expand during the cooking. Garnish the Sheng Jian top with roasted sesame seeds.

Brush the top of Sheng Jian with a bit of egg white helps the sesame seeds to stick to the buns.

Pan Fry Sheng Jian {生煎馒头}
Pan Fry Sheng Jian {生煎馒头}

Pan fry for about 3 minutes, or till the bottom of Sheng Jian Mantou turns into golden and crispy.

Sheng Jian with a Golden Crispy Bottom
Sheng Jian with a Golden Crispy Bottom

Pour water into the pan, enough that about one-third of the buns are under the water. For a 12-inch fry-pan, that is about 1 2/3 cup of water; for a 10-inch fry-pan, that is about 1 1/4 cup of water.

Add Water to Pan Fried Sheng Jian
Add Water to Pan Fried Sheng Jian Mantou

Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 10 minutes. Water should disappear by the end of 10 minutes. Remove the lid, garnish the buns with finely chopped green onion. Turn the heat to low and cook for another 5 minutes.

Freshly made Sheng Jian Mantou {生煎馒头}
Freshly made Sheng Jian Mantou {生煎馒头}

How do you eat pan-fried pork buns {Sheng Jian Mantou}?

Traditionally, Sheng Jian is a popular breakfast item. However, you can enjoy them for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Pair it either with a bowl of porridge or soup. Sheng Jian with a steaming bowl of hot and sour soup is my kind of meal.

Sheng Jian Mantou pair with Hot and Sour Soup
Sheng Jian Mantou pair with Hot and Sour Soup

Pan Fried Pork Buns Frequently Asked Questions:

How do you reheat pan fried pork buns?

Freshly cooked Sheng Jian features a crispy bottom and soft top with juicy pork fillings. To reheat them is a bit tricky. However, you can still do it by using a combination of microwave and griddle. Use the microwave to warm up the Shen Jian, especially the pork filling.

First, place them on a microwave-safe plate and cover them with a plate glass cover (to maintain the moisture) and microwave for 30 seconds.

Then heat a cast iron griddle on high heat for 1 minute. Turn the heat to medium and add buns and grill for 3 minutes.

Can I freeze freshly wrapped Sheng Jian?

Yes, you can. Use the similar method as you do with Jiao Zi {dumplings}. Lay them flat on a sheet in the freezer for a few hours or till they are firmed up. After that, place them into your favorite freezer storage container or Ziploc freezer bag.

Freshy Wrapped Sheng Jian Mantou
Freshy Wrapped Sheng Jian Mantou

How do I cook frozen Sheng Jian?

Cook them as frozen, no need to thaw them first and use the similar method as you cook the fresh ones.

Heat a quality non-stick fry-pan on medium-high for 1 minute. Spray 2 tsp cooking oil using a homemade oil sprayer and then lay the frozen buns in the pan. Cook for 3 minutes or till the bottom is crispy and golden.

Add 1 1/4 cup water for a 10-inch pan and 1 2/3 cup of water for a 12-inch pan, cover with a lid, and steam for 10 minutes. The water should disappear by the end of the 10 minutes.

Turn the heat to low, remove the lid, sprinkle with finely chopped spring onions and leave the lid off and cook for another 5 minutes.

Sheng Jian Mantou {Easy Authentic Huai Yang Style}

Sheng Jian Mantou Recipe {Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Buns}

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Sheng Jian Mantou {生煎馒头} or short for Sheng Jian, also known as pan-fried pork buns, is a traditional Huai Yang style food native to China’s Yangtze River Delta area including Shanghai and Suzhou. 

Ingredients

For the Dough:

  • 495 g all-purpose flour, about 3 cups, organic unbleached preferred
  • 270 g water, see notes
  • 6 g dry active yeast, about 1 tsp
  • 12 g cane sugar, organic unrefined preferred
  • 1/8 tsp Himalayan pink salt
  • 25 g avocado oil

For the Pork Filling:

  • 1 lb ground pork, home ground preferred
  • 2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 1 tbsp natural soy sauce, or dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp Zhenjiang vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sweet fermented bean paste {Tian Mian Jiang}
  • 1 egg, cage free or organic
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot flour
  • 1 tsp cane sugar, organic unrefined preferred
  • 1/2 tsp star anise powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds powder, freshly ground preferred
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 stalks of green onions, finely chopped into paste

For Pan Fry and Steaming:

  • 2 tbsp avocado oil, see notes
  • 1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds, either black or white
  • 1 egg white
  • 5 cups of water, about
  • 1 stalks of green onions for garnishing, finely chopped, optional

Instructions

Make the Doug:

  1. Read here for a detailed step-by-step on how to make a smooth dough.
    Sheng Jian Mantou uses semi-leavened dough. I use less dry active yeast for this dough compared to regular fluffy buns.
    Cover the mixing bowl with a damp kitchen towel while you prepare pork filling.
    Sheng Jian Mantou Ingredients

Prep Pork Filling:

  1. Read here for a detailed guided recipe on how to make tasty pork filling.
  2. I use a spice grinder to grind my own organic coriander seeds powder. A spice grinder is a very handy gadget in the kitchen.
    Grind fennel seeds for Chai Spice Mix
  3. I use a mini food processor to chop fresh herbs into a paste. Cut green onions into coarse pieces and then use a mini food processor to chop/grind into a paste.
  4. Compared to the original pork filling recipe, we used maximum sugar level and added an extra 2 tbsp sweet fermented bean paste.
    Pork Filling on a Sheng Jian Wrapper

Make the Wrappers:

  1. Read here for a detailed step-by-step tutorial on how to use a pasta machine along with a cookie cutter to make dumplings and bun wrappers.
  2. Compared to Jiao Zi or dumpling wrappers, we use a thicker level, setting 2 for the KitchenAid Stand Mixer.
  3. For the corners and patches left behind after you cut the rounds, you can re-knead them together and re-use them and turn them into a dough sheet.
    Use cookie cutter to cut dough sheet into Dumpling Wrappers
    Sheng Jian Wrapper Using a Pasta Machine and Cookie Cutter

Wrap Sheng Jian Mantou:

  1. Read here for an easy-to-follow tutorial wrap Sheng Jian in authentic Huai Yang style.
    Wrap Sheng Jian Step Five

Cook Sheng Jian Mantou:

  1. Lightly brush the top of the buns with egg white and then sprinkle some sesame seeds.
  2. Turn the heat to medium, heat a 12-inch hard-anodized fry-pan for 1 minute. Add 2 tsp avocado oil into the pan, spread evenly using a mini rubber spatula.
  3. Add buns into the pan, spread out, and leave a bit of room in between to allow expansion during the cooking.
    Pan Fry Sheng Jian {生煎馒头}
  4. Let it cook for about 3 minutes, or till the bottom of Sheng Jian Mantou turns golden and crispy.
    Sheng Jian with a Golden Crispy Bottom
  5. Pour water into the pan, enough that about one-third of the buns are underneath the water. For a 12-inch fry-pan, that is about 1 2/3 cup of water.
    Add Water to Pan Fried Sheng Jian
  6. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 10 minutes. Water should disappear by the end of 10 minutes. Remove the lid, garnish the buns with finely chopped green onions. Turn the heat to low and cook for additional 5 minutes.
    Freshly made Sheng Jian Mantou {生煎馒头}
  7. All done. Remove the Shengjian from the pan and repeat to cook the next batch.
  8. Enjoy some tasty soupy Sheng Jian Mantou either by themselves or with a soup or porridge!
    Sheng Jian Mantou pair with Hot and Sour Soup

Notes

  • For precision purposes, I use the unit of a gram to measure the ingredients required for the dough. The amount of water required depends on the types of flour and the environment's humidity level, and especially the latter. I recommend you go extra slow when you have about 20% water left, knead the dough continuously while gradually adding drops of water. Our goal is to form a smooth dough.
  • This recipe makes about 60 Sheng Jian Mantou. The dough and pork filling should match well. This is assuming you re-use all the dough corners and patches after you cut the rounds. You can re-knead those patches together and turn them into a dough sheet and then cut them into round wrappers.
  • You can either freeze Sheng Jian Mantou as raw, just like Jiao Zi or dumplings. Or you can freeze the cooked Sheng Jian. Either way is fine.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 899Total Fat: 40gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 153mgSodium: 1180mgCarbohydrates: 86gFiber: 4gSugar: 9gProtein: 44g

Nutrition calculation is provided by Nutritionix to the best knowledge per ingredients description and isn't always accurate.

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