Nikuman are Japanese steamed hot buns with ground pork filling. The white bread part is made from both yeast and baking powder, and it is soft and tender. The filling is pork with chopped vegetables seasoned with soy sauce and other flavorings such as oyster sauce and ginger. The name Nikuman comes from the meat (Niku) and the cake (Man from Manjyu). Even though Manjyu are Japanese sweet cakes, this is a savory Manjyu Japanese people love eating for a snack and light meal.
It originated from Chinese Dim Sum steamed buns, but NIkuman has made its own evolution to fit to Japanese tastes over the last 100 years. The meat used for Nikuman is usually ground pork, and the seasonings are mainly Soy Sauce but with a hint of Chinese flavor, from oyster sauce and sesame oil. Nikuman could be eaten at Chinese restaurants in Japan, but they are more often found in hot deli boxes at convenience stores during winter. It is a great hot snack in the cold season there rather than restaurant food. Nikuman is the most popular kind, but there are variations of Nikuman, like Curryman and Pizzaman (yes, cheese too inside the bun).
Another good way to find Nikuman in Japan is the freezer section of supermarkets. Frozen Nikuman is a very convenient food which can be ready in a couple of minutes in a microwave oven. You can get frozen Nikuman at anytime of the year as opposed to convenience stores’ seasonal treat. On the other hand, our home-made Nikuman is not really a convenient food. It may be a rather complicated food to make for a beginner cook. However, taste-wise or if Nikuman are hard to find, it is a very good option. Watch our video, and you’ll know exactly what to do. And after a couple of times of practice, you’ll be a master! After all, it’s not that difficult to make – it’s just Nikuman.
What would be a good condiment for Nikuman? It is pretty well seasoned, so you don’t really need to put anything on it. However, if you like, you can use soy sauce and vinegar dipping sauce, or Japanese yellow mustard, or both.
- 100 ml warm water
- 2 tsp yeast
- 200g all purpose flour
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp oil
- 200g ground pork
- 2 dried Shiitake mushrooms, rehydrated and chopped finely
- 50g water chestnuts, chopped finely
- 2 green onions, chopped finely
- 1 tsp ginger root. grated
- 2 Tbsp Soy Sauce
- 1 Tbsp Sake
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp oyster sauce
- 1 Tbsp corn starch
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- For the bread dough:
- Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let it sit stand for 5 minutes.
- In a separate bowl mix the flour, sugar and baking powder. Mix yeast water and dry ingredients with oil in a stand mixer using a dough hook for 10 minutes or until the dough becomes elastic and smooth.
- Shape the dough into a ball and put it back in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise for 30-40 minutes until doubled. Deflate the air from the dough and it's ready to use.
- For Nikuman:
- Chop the vegetables finely, and grate the ginger. Mix well all the ingredients, along with prepared vegetables, for the filling in a bowl.
- Cut the prepared dough into 8 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Roll a ball into a 5" (12.5cm) round, and put 1/8 of the meat mixture in the middle of the dough. Pinch the dough to wrap the filling, and shape into a ball (watch our video to see exactly how). Repeat for the remaining dough and filling to make 8 Nikuman balls.
- Place the Nikuman balls on 3" (7.5cm) parchment paper squares. Put them in a hot steamer (place them 2" or 5cm apart), and cook at medium high heat for 10- 12 minutes.