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 https://ongling.com/2015/05/03/too-adorable-to-eat-animal-manju/. 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.
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.)
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.