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Nikuman – Japanese Steamed Buns


So recently, I fulfilled an all-time ambition of mine: to make Japanese steamed buns (nikuman):

I think white flour ones are the best, but you can experiment. I actually made some with white self-raising flour, but then rolled the dough balls in wholegrain flour – it was a nice touch. Obviously, make sure to wash your hands and clean up a surface to work on before you start.

So, really, you want to just mix all of the above up in a nice, large mixing bowl and once the dough has been formed, put it to the side and leave it for fifteen minutes. Leaving the dough for a little while is actually really important because it makes it a lot easier to manage later.

In the meantime, you should prepare the filling:

They are, technically, supposed to be filled with ground pork, but we didn’t have any of that so I just used sausages (which, after trying real pork in them, actually taste better so I would go for that). Burgers are surprisingly tasty in them, too. You should just be creative. I found that chicken and stuffing ones were also good but gammon ones were really nice. I haven’t tried fish, but I imagine that would be an adequate filling, too.

I haven’t actually put any measurements up there, but that’s because I didn’t use any. I just did what I felt was right and what I wanted to eat, so that’s what I recommend for you; it’s entirely up to you what you do with this part.

Be sure that the meat in your filling is already cooked before you add anything to it.

You want to mix all of your ingredients up to form a sort of paste, so I find that a hand-blender is usually the best method of doing this, depending on how solid the meat is to begin with.

If you are sticking with the hand-blender approach, I find that it’s a lot easier to blend in some sort of sturdy jug than a bowl, just because then there’s less of a chance that everything will fly out and make a mess.

Now that your filling is presumably prepared (and it’s been enough time), let’s return to the dough. I find that one batch makes about five buns – I call them dumplings a lot, I suppose they are – so split the dough into five and roll each part into a little ball.

Flour the surface and pat each ball flat so that it makes a sort of pancake; you want them so that they’re approximately half a centimetre thick.

Then take a scoop of filling and place it in the centre of the dumpling pancake. Don’t put too much in or they’ll split as they rise (sometimes mine do that anyway though, I don’t really know why).

This is where it may get tricky:

You have to sort of bundle the dough up so that the filling is cosily wrapped inside. I find that the best way to do this is to fold the top and bottom of the dough surrounding the filling into the middle so that it looks like a sort of taco. Then bring the sides in and kind of fumble with it a little so that it all sticks together. You’ll get the hang of it.

After it’s all bundled, roll it around in your hands a little to ensure that it’s still round and soft.

Obviously, repeat the process for the other four nikuman.

As the name suggests, they are supposed to be steamed but if you don’t have a steamer, do what I did and make one:

I took a pan with a couple of inches of water in it (make sure that there isn’t too much or when it boils, it might reach the buns, potentially ruining them) and put a colander on the top of it (I was actually lucky enough to have a sort of flat colander in the house, but I presume a semi-spherical one would work just fine, too). On top of that, I put a tea-towel – it’s very important to use material for the top cover as a glass or metal pan lid will just deflect the water and make the buns all soggy whereas a tea-towel will absorb all the water vapour.

When you actually put the dumplings in, put them wrap-side-down so that the top looks smooth. You might want to put some sort of anti-stick substance on the colander/steamer as in my experience, they have a tendency to stick.

Depending on the size of the colander/steamer, I wouldn’t put more than two (three at a push) nikuman in at a time as you can expect them to double in size.

Steam them for fifteen minutes on the highest setting possible. After each steam, make sure to check on the water levels in the pan; I ruined one of our pans when all the water evaporated and I hadn’t noticed. It burnt all the inside of it and was pretty scary when I poured more water in it as it spat everywhere and was very disconcerting. I would try to avoid this, if at all possible.

That’s basically it, or at least, all I can think of that’s important. Give these a go, they’re easy to make and taste good, not to mention the fact that they don’t make much mess and don’t take that long.


From → Recipes

  1. I’m going to try this – they sound delicious.

  2. OK, I’m back to reading old posts. First off, you are amazing for trying to make these yummy buns, let alone illustrate the process. Second off, You’re persona is just so enjoyable for me to read, it’s like an antidote or something, to what I am not sure.

    You won’t believe it, but we just started buying nikuman frozen at the local Asian market, but I’m sure they don’t taste any where near as good as the homemade ones. I burned my nice pot this week too arrrrrgggggg.

    • Oh, wow! I don’t think you can buy them here. There’s actually this huge superstore in central Manchester called ‘Wing Yip’ that I’ve only been in once, I think they probably do sell them there, thinking about it. I burned a pan, too, while making them. More than once, I’m ashamed to say. All the water evaporated and that was what occurred as a consequence. It came off after a few washes so it’s all good :>. I’m so glad you enjoy my posts, really! They’re hardly an antidote though, ahaha :>.

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