Mantou, often referred to as Chinese steamed bun/bread, is a type of steamed bread or bun originating in China. They are typically eaten as a staple in northern parts of China where wheat, rather than rice, is grown. They are made with milled wheat flour
and leavening agents. In size and texture, they range from 4 cm, soft and fluffy in the most elegant restaurants, to over 15 cm, firm and dense for the working man's lunch. (As white flour, being more heavily processed, was once more expensive, white mantou were somewhat of a luxury in preindustrial China.)
Traditionally, mantou, bing, and wheat noodles were the staple carbohydrates of the northern Chinese diet, analogous to rice, which forms the mainstay of the southern Chinese diet. They are also known in the south, but are often served as street food or a restaurant dish, rather than as a staple or home cooking. Restaurant mantou are often smaller and more delicate and can be further manipulated, for example, by deep-frying and dipping in sweetened condensed milk.
They are often sold precooked in the frozen section of Asian supermarkets, ready for preparation by steaming or heating in the microwave
A similar food, but with a filling inside, is baozi
. Mantou is the older word, and in some regions (such as the Jiangnan region of China, and Korea) mantou (or the equivalent local reading of the word) can be used to indicate both the filled and unfilled buns, while in Japan the equivalent local reading of the word refers only to filled buns.