nikuman (with recipe)


on a bone-chilling cold day on your way home from work, what you need is “nikuman”. nikuman are steamed buns filled with meat. they’re very popular in japan, where you can buy them at convenience stores during the winter. there’ll be a steam cabinet near the cash register filled with different types of chuuka-man. chuuka means chinese, who invented them. thanks, china. anyway, your local convenience store will have nikuman (“niku” = meat), also called butaman (“buta” = pork), and kareiman (curry), pizaman (pizza), and anman (“an” = sweet red beans).

they’re all good, especially when it’s cold outside.

there are so many convenience stores in japan that they have to invent new flavours all the time to compete. i’d like to try the “super-spicy habanero pork/kimchee”man from family mart. but there’s no family mart in canada yet, so…

this was my second time trying to make nikuman. the first version was pretty sad: the bread was so hard, it was barely edible. at least the filling was good. i figured i should be able to make better nikuman this time — plus, i had a new recipe!

i used a bag of chinese “steamed bun flour” that i found at the asian market. and the recipe called for LARD…. yes– i was supposed to use lard. i had to buy the lard. the LAAAARD — pig fat! of course i just couldn’t reach for it at the supermarket. i just couldn’t stand the thought a stick of LARD happily sitting in my basket. so i grabbed some vegetable shortening instead. it’s not very good for you either, but at least it isn’t pig fat. all i needed was a tablespoon, but still… i was willing to do ANYTHING (almost) for the perfect nikuman.

yes, i’m contradicting myself by not wanting to put lard in the bread that i’m filling with pork anyway.

so there i was with a stick of vegetable shortening sitting in my kitchen for the first time. it turns out that using shortening is the secret to producing fluffy nikuman. here’s the recipe i used. it’s in japanese, so here’s the translation:

recipe: nikuman

bun (pastry)

  • flour 300g
  • sugar 40g
  • a pinch of salt
  • instant yeast 4g
  • baking powder 10g
  • milk 40ml
  • water 100ml
  • vegetable shortening 15g

meat filling (my version)

  • lean minced pork 150g
  • chinese cabbage about 5 leaves, cut into jullienne, steamed (microwaved), squeeze out all the water
  • garlic 2 cloves, minced
  • ginger about half the size of a golf ball, minced
  • shiitake mushroom 1/2 cup, sliced
  • dash sesame oil
  • dash soy sauce
  • dash oyster sauce
  • sugar 1TB
  • japanese cooking sake wine 1 TB
  • cornstarch 1/2 TB
  • s + p to taste, but don’t actually taste it (raw!)
  1. for the bun, mix all the powdered ingredient in a bowl and make a well in the centre
  2. pour the wet ingredients into the well and mix in thoroughly
  3. when they’re combined, add the shortening and knead until smooth
  4. rest at room temp. for 30 mins
  5. mix the filling and divide into 10 balls
  6. divide the dough into 10 balls and roll them out round.
  7. wrap them around the fillings, pinch at the top
  8. rest for 15 mins
  9. steam for 15 mins: add a splash of white vinegar to the water to prevent discoloration

(makes about 10 nikuman)

you eat nikuman by dipping them into a soy-vinegar sauce mixed with hot yellow mustard (like a hot english mustard). sooo— good.


Author: yuka

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21 thoughts on “nikuman (with recipe)”

  1. sounds a lot the the ukranian way of making buns stuffed with different things like fruit–plums figs, etc, or poppy seed mixture, or saurkraught, and sometimes meat, but i don’t remember having a meat bun. your recipe looks like it would be absolutely delicious, especially with garlic, muchrooms and ginger. God willing, some day i will have to try this chinese invention and the japanese refinement of your recipe. best wishes.

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  3. Have you actually checked the fat compositions for lard and vegetable shortening? Most vegetable shortenings are high in trans fats, and lard is less saturated. Look at the facts instead of lard’s unfairly poor reputation – there’s no need to eat the worse tasting fat out of misguided health concerns.

  4. oh dear… calm down dear.

    it’s a “thought of fat from PIG” that i’m talking about.
    i agree with you. in the end, both are equally fattening and unhealthy.

    oink oink ;)

  5. thank you for the recipes! i Google’d nikuman. i got kin-niku man and a bunch of other niku man sites, but yours seemed most reliable. kan desu. i’ll tell you how it went after my mom lets me use the kitchen again :]

  6. i only wished they weren’t in grams cuz our gram-o-meter’s a little bit kookoo. i must perfect this recipe!!

  7. I used to eat these things ALL the time when I lived in Okinawa. You reminded me of Family Mart and I felt a deep aching.

    Thank you for the recipe, this has brought back many fond memories, childhood happiness, and a little peice of home for me : ) (Lived in Oki for many, many years)

    Thank you for testing the recipies for all of us lol.

  8. This random person from the internet will e trying to make these once he figures out how to properly convert grams into cups. Or acquires a measuring apparatus that sees fit to inform him of it’s capacity for grams. All the ones I have inform me only of ‘cups’ and ‘mililitres’ -.-;

  9. Well we’re one attempt through this and I’m not yet eating delicious nikuman yet. I attempted to convert the gram value of the dry ingredients to cups and must have done something incredibly wrong as my result *after* letting the dough sit for a couple hours would best be described as pancake batter. >.<;
    I really need to figure out where to get one of these scales I'm apparently meant to keep in the kitchen.

  10. @UTK – You cannot convert grams to cups… Well, not the way you are doing it anyway. One’s a dry measure, the other is a wet measure…

    Let’s see…


    300g flour = about 2/3 (dry) cups
    40 g Sugar = 2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons
    1 pinch of salt = 1 pinch of salt
    4g yeast = 1 scant teaspoon (a teaspoon is actually 5 g)
    10g baking powder = 2 teaspoons
    40ml milk = about 1/4 cup
    100ml water = slightly less than 1/2 cup
    15g shortening = 1 Tablespoon

    @Des – Yes, you can leave out the oyster sauce.

    Another version of the filling…

    4 ounces cooked pulled (or fresh ground pork)
    White and green of 1 spring onion, finely chopped
    2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger
    2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce
    2 teaspoons light soy sauce
    2 teaspoons granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon sesame oil
    1.5 ounces boiled bamboo shoots, finely chopped (optional)

  11. I heard somewhere that you can get away with making one of these nikuman with just the pastry ingrediants, and the meat alone. However, I was also told that it wasn’t recomended unless it’s your very first time, and only you are trying the product.

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