Barbarians Heads

My little foray yesterday into chinese buns worked out pretty well.  Having a food mixer with a dough hook made easy work of kneading up the dough, and easy rise yeast meant one step less to do.

I followed the instruction for shaping the flower rolls (huajuan) but my bumblings didn’t look anything like the example. See mine?  They look like they fell of the back of a lorry and are writhing in pain.


Now see the book’s example. Nice and layered and proud looking.  Hmmmm. Not quite the same, eh?

No matter, I figured I would make man tou as well when I saw the huajuan looking so… peaky.  Loved mantou too and they are so versatile – such  homey treats, filled with meat or fish, or my favourite – peanut butter!

Prebaked mantou. Pretty easy, just round things.  Legend has it that mantou actually derives from the word for “barbarians head” (same pronunciation, different first character).   During the Three Kingdoms Period, commander Zhuge Liang had to cross a river to return home after a triumphant battle with the barbarian king Meng Huo.  The barbarian custom was to sacrifice 50 men and throw their heads into the river to appease the spirit and allow them to cross.  Zhuge Liang instead made meat filled buns in the shape of human heads and threw these into the river instead and was able to cross successfully! Somewhere along the line the word barbarian’s head has evolved into steamed bun ‘mantou’.


Stuck em all in the steamer.

And out came rather respectable looking mantou!  They are nice and fluffy so am rather pleased with how easy it all was. The huajuan… well I’m sorry to say though they taste lovely they look quite ugly so no photos of them!


For the huajuan, my recipe didn’t have any spring onions, which I really like in this kind of bun, so I googled huajuan and found this with a great method for shaping.  Will try that next!

Liz the book I used was this one – the Weichuan series has some great ones (my favourite is Chinese Rice & Noodles – all my favourite noodle dishes are in there).  My mom bought this one and Chinese One Dish Meals (also from Weichuan) way back when I was 19, and I still have the One Dish Meals one but a friend of mine who used to live in Taiwan was so excited by the Chinese Snacks cookbook I gave it to him, and have only just now seen it again on! Yay!  It’s awesome.  Planning on making a huge meal for Chinese New year.

8 thoughts on “Barbarians Heads

  1. Mmmm, I don’t know what you’re talking about — they look great! Back when I was seeing this guy who lived in Montreal, my very favourite snack (aside from the bagels, of course) were these AMAZING red bean buns from this Chinese bakery downtown. Man, they were good!

  2. Wow ! They are looking great, if you like the huajuan to have more layers, you just need to roll the dough thiner and repeat a couple more times in the very last time you spread some fine cut spring onions all over the thin dough, than roll it up make sure not let it rise too much again, you should get something very close to the photo, but again, as long as the taste lovely I will said you did a very good job.

  3. You have reminded me how much that little bakery across from my office. I also used to get some kind of soft roll filled with corn for breakfast – mmmm

  4. Pingback: Wanshiruyi — Adventures of Socktopus

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