When you see Nikuman, you might automatically associate it with being a Chinese dish, but it is actually a really popular food among Japanese people. Nikuman is a steamed bun that is usually filled with a pork-based filling. The bread of nikuman has just a touch of sweetness, and the pork filling is rich and juicy. The combination of the bun and the pork are a match made in heaven, and everyone from children to adults looks forward to eating nikuman.
As an easy-to-eat and convenient food, you can easily purchase hot Nikuman at convenience stores, and they are a must-have snack, especially during the cold winter months. In Japan, you can also buy frozen Nikuman in supermarkets. These are very convenient and are perfect to eat in a pinch, but nothing beats the homemade version of nikuman.
Making nikuman at home may seem a little bit complicated, but once you get started, you’ll realize how each step is actually not too difficult. Once you get the hang of making the dough and wrapping the nikuman, you’ll be able to enjoy making and eating freshly made nikuman in the comfort of your own home!
There are two main processes for making nikuman at home. First, you make the bread dough that needs to be fermented. We will add instant dry yeast and baking powder to the bread dough so that the texture of the buns becomes soft and fluffy when steamed. After making the dough, we will make the filling.
The filling we will make is ground pork based. In order to make it even more tasty, we will add minced onion, shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and ginger. The combination of all of these ingredients will give you a nikuman filling that is savory and rich in umami flavor.
Once you master making nikuman at home, you can make other varieties of nikuman with different flavors. For example, you can make Pizza-man (pizza sauce and cheese-filled bun), An-man (red bean paste bun), or even Curry-man (savory curry bun).
In order to make nikuman at home, you will need a steamer. If you don’t have one, we’ll introduce you to one that we love which you can purchase on Japanese Taste. A cooking steamer is very useful not only for making Nikuman, but also for making chawanmushi (Japanese steamed egg custard), shumai (Chinese dumpling), steamed vegetables, Japanese custard pudding, and more!
Now, let’s get to making delicious nikuman at home!
Prep time: 1hr 40mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 1hr 55mins
Total servings: 5
- 125g All Purpose Flour (for the bread dough)
- 25g Bread Flour (for the bread dough)
- 25g Sugar (for the bread dough)
- 2g Instant Dry Yeast (for the bread dough)
- 2g Baking Powder (for the bread dough)
- 1/2 tsp Vegetable Oil (for the bread dough)
- 80ml Water (for the bread dough)
- 100g Ground Pork (for the filling)
- 20g Minced Onion (for the filling)
- 20g Minced Shiitake Mushroom (for the filling)
- 20g Minced Bamboo Shoot (boiled) (for the filling)
- 5g Minced Ginger
- 1 tsp Potato Starch (for the filling)
- 1/4 tsp Salt (for seasoning the filling)
- 1/4 tsp Chicken Stock Powder (for seasoning the filling)
- 1 tsp Sugar (for seasoning the filling)
- 1 tsp Soy Sauce (for seasoning the filling)
- 1 tsp Oyster Sauce (for seasoning the filling)
- 1 Tbsp Water (for seasoning the filling)
- 1 tsp Sesame Oil (for seasoning the filling)
Many steamers are bulky and take up a lot of space. If you’re hesitant about buying one, consider this steaming lid instead.
This compact-sized steamer can simply be used over a frying pan or pot. As it’s made of stainless steel, you don’t need to worry about tedious maintenance. You can keep it clean easily.
This steaming lid is great for making nikuman at home, but you can also make many other things with it. Try using it for cooking shumai, steamed vegetables, chawanmushi (steamed egg custard), pudding, and more! This steaming lid will expand your cooking repertoire for sure!
1) Advanced Preparation
Cut a piece of parchment paper into 5 squares at 8cm×8cm each. (As in the picture.)
2) Gathering the Ingredients
Gather the ingredients for the buns. Microwave the water at 500w for 20 seconds until its temperature reaches about 40℃ (104°F).
Gather the ingredients for the filling and seasonings. Mix the seasoning ingredients for the filling and set aside.
3) Making the Bread Dough for the Buns
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for the buns except for the water and vegetable oil. Pour the water over the Instant Dry Yeast. (see picture) And add vegetable oil.
Mix the dough thoroughly with a spatula until it is no longer powdery.
Transfer the dough onto a clean worktable. Knead the dough with your palms for 2-3 minutes. When the dough sticks to the work table, use a scraper to scrape it away.
Once the surface of the dough is smooth, cut it into 5 portions with the scraper (one portion should weigh about 50-52g).
Take one portion of dough to your hand and shape it into a ball. Do the same for the other 4 portions.
4) Resting the Dough
Place the portioned dough into a deep tray and cover them with plastic wrap and a dishcloth. Set aside for about 30 minutes until the dough balls become a bit bigger in size.
5) Making the Nikuman Filling
Place the ground pork into a bowl. Pour the mixed seasoning onto the ground pork little by little and mix well to evenly combine it.
Next, put the minced vegetables into another bowl and add the potato starch. Mix them together with a spoon.
Finally, mix the ground pork and vegetables together in a bowl. Mix well to evenly distribute the vegetables into the filling. Divide the mixture into 5 portions (each portion should be about 40g) as in the picture.
6) Shaping the Nikuman
Once the dough has finished resting, dust some extra bread flour onto your worktable and begin shaping the dough. Place one portion of dough onto the worktable and flatten it using a rolling pin. It should be about 11 cm round.
Place the filling into the center of the dough round.
Wrap and fold the dough as pictured.
It is important to close the top of the nikuman tightly to keep the umami flavor concentrated in the bun.
Repeat this process for the remaining nikuman.
Place the shaped nikuman onto a deep tray with baking sheets and cover them with plastic wrap and a wrung dishcloth. Set them aside again for 30 minutes until they become a bit bigger in size.
7) Steaming the Nikuman
Use a steamer to cook the nikuman.
If you don’t have a steamer, we recommend this steaming lid from Yoshikawa. You can use this product in combination with your 24-26 cm frying pan. The uniqueness of this product is its high dome-shaped lid which enables you to steam larger foods.
Bring water (400-500ml for this product) to a boil in a pan or a pot and set the steamer on top. Once the water is boiling, place the Nikuman (with the sheets of parchment paper we prepared earlier) onto the steamer tray. It’s desirable to leave at least 2 cm between each nikuman as they get larger during steaming.
Close the lid and steam nikuman on medium heat for 10-15 minutes.
8) Enjoying Freshly Made Nikuman!
After the nikuman are fully cooked, open the lid. Be careful not to burn yourself from the hot steam!
Serve the Nikuman and enjoy!
Nikuman goes well with Japanese mustard (karashi). If you have some, try adding some for a spicy kick!