Making creative mantou buns fresh, fun and healthy
What began as a hobby grew into a business and garnered global accolade for freelance teacher
Baking began as a hobby for the freelance speech and drama educator, who wanted to keep her son occupied when the Covid-19 pandemic kept them at home last year.
Ms Ong Simin, 36, started out making cupcakes at home after she was left without work for months, but she stopped after realising the high sugar content in them and how tedious the cleaning process was.
When she came across online videos on how to make creative mantou, she decided to give it a go.
Mantou is a soft and fluffy steamed (or deep fried) bread made from wheat flour. It can be made plain or with sweet or savoury filling.
Ms Ong told The New Paper: "It is easier to clean up, lower in sugar, and quite healthy for kids and for everybody."
The cute designs also attracted her four-year-old son to eat the healthier snack.
After months of experimenting with recipes and taking a class to strengthen her skills, Ms Ong founded Mantou Generation and created her own designs.
She also started to post tutorials on Mantou Generation's YouTube channel in August last year.
To attract a wider audience, Ms Ong used both English and Chinese subtitles in her tutorials.
In November, she took part in the Netherlands International Chef Challenge 2020, which was conducted online due to the pandemic.
Ms Ong was awarded the gold medal in the steamed bread category for her creation of "mermaids and pirate girls" buns.
She said: "It was stepping out of the comfort zone for me to take part in the competition, as I'm not from the culinary industry. (But) the result was quite good, so it boosted my confidence and I thought about teaching people because teaching is my forte."
Mantou Generation now offers creative buns for sale online. Ms Ong also teaches group and individual classes.
She hopes to expand her business with online classes and help more people like her who want to start their own home business making mantou.
Ms Ong said: "If you are passionate about something, it is important that you step out of your comfort zone and give it a try."
Secrets of the trade
- There are six steps in making a successful creative mantou: Kneading, degassing, colouring, shaping, proofing, and finally, steaming. The proofing of the buns, or fermentation process, is the trickiest to master and will determine if the buns turn out good. Chefs should observe the dough regularly during the process.
- Use cold liquid for kneading the dough as it will allow the yeast to ferment gradually.
- Steam the buns when they are proofed to 11/2 times in size for consistency in shape. After steaming, do not rush to open the lid. Let the buns sit for three minutes in the pot before opening.