Little thrills, little trips, little ideas

Imo Manju Piglets (Mini sweet potato buns)



I decided to try making steamed manju for Tz’s school snack bentos for next week. Been eating many different types of manju last month in Japan, like Nozawa okayi buns in Nozawa Onsen (especially love the fresh apple filling), Hida beef manju in Takayama, Chestnut paste manju etc…..and I have posted an article recently about mini animal manju from Namikoshiken Making the manju is pretty easy for first timer like me because I chose the simplest filling, sweet potato paste. If you have baked bread before, making the bun process is similar and quicker.

This recipe yields about 10 -12 mini manjus.

Bun (this recipe is adapted from the booklet “AT HOME WAGASHI” with a little tweaking)
1& 1/3 cup cake flour
1/3 cup water with soft pink colouring
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbs brown fine sugar
2 tbs rice malt syrup
1 tbs melted better

Sweet Potato fillings
3 small or 2 medium Satsuma Imo or Japanese sweet potatoes (the sizes differ depending where the sweet potatoes are from)
2 tbs Rice Malt syrup
1 tbs butter

Sieve cake flour and baking powder together. I sieve 2 times for a thorough mix. Add sugar, rice malt syrup, butter and pink coloured water, mix well. (tip: Pour the coloured water in 3  portions, mix each time after pouring to control the depth of the colour). Let the dough rest lightly covered with a cheese cloth or cellophane wrap for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, steam the peeled sweet potatoes until soft. Use a flour siever to mash the potato for a finer texture and separate the veins, if any. Add the melted butter and rice malt syrup and mix well. Leave it in the fridge covered.

Sweet Potato Mashing

Knead the dough until earlobe texture on a floured surface. This is where the bicep muscles kick in….


Divide into equal portions. Use a roller pin to roll out each portion into circular shape for an even thickness before inserting the sweet potato filling. Make sure the rolled out circular shape is big enough to wrap the filling. Use the smoother side as the exterior part of the bun.
Wrap the sweet potato filling, (I used a heaped tsp of filling per manju and form the manju into the desired shape.  I mixed black colouring into the leftover dough for the eyes.)

Shaped dough before steaming

Steam the manju over medium fire for about 12 minutes. Do not use rice cooker for steaming as the condensed water formed on the  lid will wet the surface of the manju. Use a traditional bamboo steamer. The buns will expand slightly.

Bamboo Steamer


Author: ongling

Hi, I have been making bento lunch boxes for my toddler son for a year. Its a challenge everyday to think of new bento ideas to excite him. The creations are endless and took a lot of trial and errors. But most importantly, his bento lunches must deliver 3 key goals: exciting presentation (eye appeal), exciting tastes (texture & ingredients) and exciting adventures (dare to try; food play). Recently, I started making my husband lunch bentos too for work after he got envious of seeing beautiful bentos prepared by Japanese wives on Japanese TV network. I am learning and picking up skills from many talented bento makers everyday to improve myself. Here are some of my creations I would like to share with you. Apart from bentos, there some travel stories and little things i enjoy doing related to food and culture in this blog. So enjoy and share your thoughts with me.

5 thoughts on “Imo Manju Piglets (Mini sweet potato buns)

  1. Oh wow, that looks so easy! That said, I don’t own a manju and I don’t have the space. Do you have any other recommendations for how to make these?(I also have an electric stove with the spiral burners)


    • Hi Grace, it’s quite easy… You mean bamboo steamer? The recipe can be baked too at preheated oven at 370F for 12mins to 17 mins too. Or I think you can use any wire cooling rack for steaming as long as the lid is curved so the condensed water droplets will slide down to the corners. Let me know if this work ok?


    • btw, your electric stove with spiral burners can steam too. Put the wire cooling rack over some water in a pan for steaming, make sure the water level does not touch the buns when water is simmering.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Racoon Azuki Buns | Little thrills, little trips, little ideas

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