Sweet Potato Mantou With Sourdough – Whip It UP!

Sweet Potato Mantou With Sourdough

MANTOU or steamed buns originating in Northern China is now enjoyed in all genres of Chinese cuisine. Soft and moist, these buns are a good canvas for braised belly pork or even for mopping up chilli crab gravy. This version made using sourdough starter (natural yeast) has a delicate texture with a pleasing mild tang, a perfect counterfoil to proteins simmered in luscious gravy.

Total Time: 3 hours including proofing
Difficulty: 3/5
Cost: S$5.00
Yields: 12-14 mantou

A: Sweet Potato Dough

100g cold sourdough discard*, 100% hydration
20g granulated sugar
30g purple sweet potato, peeled and steamed
25g full cream fresh milk, cold
125g Japanese cake flour

6g coconut oil or any natural tasting oil

B: Plain Dough

100g cold sourdough discard, 100% hydration
20g sugar
30g full cream fresh milk, cold
125g Japanese cake flour

3g coconut oil or any natural tasting oil


1. This recipe has 2 portions of dough. Mash steamed sweet potato and then incorporate it into one portion while the other dough is plain.

2. Assemble all ingredients for both the plain and sweet potato dough.

3. For purple sweet potato dough: combine all ingredients except oil in a medium mixing bowl. Hold back a bit of milk if attempting this recipe for the first time – you may not need as much milk. Note that the absorption of liquids varies with different flours. Add remaining milk only if mixture is too dry.

4. Next, use a spatula or hand mix until ingredients are roughly combined, approximately 2 minutes. Then add oil and hand knead until fully incorporated, approximately 3-5 minutes. The dough will take on deep purple hues from the sweet potato.

5. For the plain dough: Similarly, combine all ingredients except oil in a medium mixing bowl. Hand mix until mixture comes together. Next, add oil and hand knead until fully incorporated, approximately 3-5 minutes.

6. Shape each dough into a ball and put it into separate mixing bowls. Cover with clingfilm. Rest approximately 30 minutes on kitchen countertop.

7. Roll each piece of dough into a rectangular sheet – do not spread it too thin as it will tear. Fold upwards twice. Cut into 12-15cm pieces. Do the same with purple dough.

8. Stack 1 strip of purple potato dough on top of plain dough. Watch video to see how to shape and twist mantou.

9. Place shaped dough into prepared bamboo steamers, allowing same space between each piece of dough. Place steamers on top of a large pot filled with warm water. Proof for 1½-2 hours.

10. Steam on medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes. Do not open steamer immediately as buns will shrink. Wait 15-20 minutes and then open cover.

Transfer mantou to a serving plate and enjoy them warm.

*Sourdough discard: This refers to leftover starter (natural yeast) used in making bread. In sourdough baking, a portion of starter is fed with fresh flour and water until it doubles or triples. This is incorporated into the dough to leaven it during baking. If you do not have your own sourdough starter, join an online sourdough group and request for a small portion form group members. The starter is 100% hydration – it is fed with equal amounts of water and flour e.g. 100g starter is mixed with 100g water and 100g flour.

TIP: Mantou crumb is extremely tender, moist and fluffy. This is attributed by the addition of sweet potato and fresh milk , both of which add moisture, as well as cake flour which has a superfine texture owing to its low protein level.

TECHNIQUE: While mixing dough, hold back a bit of milk as Japanese cake flour, being low in protein (9%) absorbs less water as compared with other higher gluten flours.

Photos: Gina Tan

Gina is a passionate home-baker whose bakes, a labour of love for her children turned into a full time career churning out sweet and savoury treats under “Baking with Gina”.

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