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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 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?

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 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 getting 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 Da Jiang {大酱 fermented sweet bean paste}. 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:

Roll the Sheng Jian Wrapper similarly to dumplings. Divide dough into approximately 25 g portions.

Sometimes, I use a noodle maker roller to make the wrapper. This is 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: that we use 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 a dumpling-size round bun. 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:

As you wrap the Sheng Jian, place them directly onto a 12-inch nonstick frying pan. Use a tiny bit of oil to condition the pan first.

Place Sheng Jian in the pan and leave a bit of room in between for them to expand during the cooking.

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 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 half of the buns are under the water. For a 12-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 8-10 minutes, or till the water disappears. Then turn the heat to simmer, garnish the buns with finely chopped green onion, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

All done! Enjoy a naturally yummy and satisfying Sheng Jian Man Tou.

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 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 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
Freshly Wrapped Sheng Jian Mantou

How do I cook frozen Sheng Jian?

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

Add 1/4 cup of extra water to cook the buns a little longer for the previously frozen Sheng Jian.

Sheng Jian Mantou {Easy Authentic Huai Yang Style}

Sheng Jian Mantou Recipe {Shanghai Pan Fried Pork Buns}

Yield: 30 buns
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
  • 250 g water, see notes
  • 1 tsp active dry yeast
  • 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
  • 2 tsp Zhenjiang vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Da Jiang {大酱 fermented soybean paste}
  • 1 egg, cage-free or organic
  • 1 tbsp arrowroot flour
  • 2 tsp cane sugar, organic unrefined preferred
  • 1/4 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

For Pan Fry and Steaming:

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

Instructions

Make the Doug:

  • Measure out ingredients using a kitchen scale and measuring spoons. Add the flour, cane sugar, avocado oil, and salt in a large mixing bowl, water in the 2-cup glass measuring cup, and the active dry yeast in a small bowl.
    Dough Ingredients
  • Add some water from the measuring cup, about 1/4 cup, to the active dry yeast bowl, and use a mini whisk or a pair of chopsticks to mix well until it dissolves and turns into a smooth paste.
  • Add the yeast paste to the big mixing bowl, and gradually add the rest of the water while kneading, until forms a smooth dough. If you use a Stand Mixer, add everything to the mixer, use a silicone spatula to coarsely mix everything, and then turn the mixer to low. Let it run for a few minutes until it forms a smooth dough.
    Make a Smooth Dough
  • Read here for a detailed step-by-step on how to make smooth dough.
    Sheng Jian Mantou uses semi-leavened dough. I use less active dry yeast for this dough compared to regular fluffy buns.
  • Cover the mixing bowl with a damp kitchen towel to let it rise while you prepare the pork filling.

Prep Pork Filling:

  • Add everything under "For the Pork Filling" in another mixing bowl.
    Marinating ground pork in a mixing bowl
  • Use a bamboo or wooden spatula to break down the pork and fold the pork into the seasoning ingredients. Once everything is loosely mixed, turn the spatula in one direction swiftly, either clock or counter-clockwise, until everything churns into a consistent & cohesive meat paste.
    marinated and blended minced pork for meatballs

Make the Wrappers either using a rolling pin or a Stand Mixer

For making wrappers using a rolling pin:

  • Knead & deflate the dough.
  • Divide the dough into a few equal portions and roll each portion into a long cylinder.
  • Cut into Sheng Jian portions with each Sheng Jian dough weight about 25 g. Use a kitchen scale to help measure and achieve consistent sizes.

For making wrappers use a Stand Mixer's past roller:

  • Knead & deflate the dough.
  • Divide the dough into a few equal portions, and organize each portion into long rectangular dough slabs.
  • Roll the dough slab once gently using the rolling pin to deflate & flatten the dough slab, and then roll through the pasta roller setting 1 and then again setting 2. This corresponds to the second to the thickest setting.
    Use cookie cutter to cut dough sheet into Dumpling Wrappers
  • Use a 3.5-inch diameter cookie cutter to cut the dough sheet into rounds.
  • For the corners and patches left behind after you cut the rounds, you can re-knead them together re-use them, and turn them into a dough sheet.
  • Read here for additional information on making bun wrappers at home.

Wrap Sheng Jian Mantou:

  • Add a tiny bit, about 1/2 tsp avocado oil into a 12-inch nonstick pan, and spread evenly using a mini silicone spatula.
  • Open the left hand (the less dominant hand) with four adjacent fingers to form a flat platform and pace one wrapper onto the platform. Add about 1 tbsp filling to the center of the wrapper.
    Pork Filling on a Sheng Jian Wrapper
  • While your left hand (or the less dominant hand) holds the wrapper with the filling in the center, your right-hand pleats and pinches the outer edge of the wrapper, starting from the lower right corner.
    how to wrap bun step 2 pleating
  • Continue to pleat and pinch counterclockwise. When you are almost halfway through the circle, rotate the wrapper on your left hand slightly clockwise so that it is easier for your right hand to continue to pleat the rest of the circle.
    how to wrap buns - pleat
  • Continue to pleat & pinch in a full circle and pinch the tip to seal the bun.
  • Flip the bun upside down, with the left hand loosely holding the bun, and use the right-hand thumb and index finger curbed area to gently while firmly squeeze while turning at the same time to form a dome shape.
    Wrap Sheng Jian Step Five
  • One Sheng Jian is wrapped! Lightly brush the top of the buns with egg white and then gently hold the bun upside down and dip it in the sesame seeds pile.
    Wrap Sheng Jian Step Five
  • Place it on the conditioned nonstick pan, and continue to wrap until you have a full pan of buns, about 15 or 16.
    Pan Fry Sheng Jian {生煎馒头}

Cook Sheng Jian Mantou:

  • Turn the heat to medium and 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
  • Pour 1 1/4 cup of water into the pan, enough that barely covers the buns.
    Add Water to Pan Fried Sheng Jian
  • Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 8-10 minutes, or till the water disappears.
  • Turn the heat to simmer and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • All done! Turn off the heat and garnish the buns with finely chopped green onions.
    Freshly made Sheng Jian Mantou {生煎馒头}
  • Remove the Shengjian from the pan. Wash the pan and repeat to cook the next batch.
  • Enjoy some tasty soupy Sheng Jian Mantou either by themselves or with 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, especially the latter. I recommend you go extra slow when you have about 20% water left, and knead the dough continuously while gradually adding drops of water. Our goal is to form a smooth dough.
  • This recipe makes about 30 Sheng Jian Mantou.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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 them into a paste.
  • Read here for additional information on how to make tasty pork filling.

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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