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90. A traditional northeast Chinese recipe: steamed corn flour bread with garlic chives filling

Actually, the term ‘bread’ does not quite reflect the original Chinese name. I wonder if there is an easy, more accurate,  translation at all. In Chinese, these are called corn flour ‘tuan zi’, which literally means something like “rolling it up into a ball with fillings in the centre”.

In my previous corn flour recipe, I already talked a bit about the history of corn flour food in China.  In the old, much poorer days, being able to have corn flour bread was like Heaven. Since I was little, my most beloved grandma, and my parents would time to time make corn flour bread to recall the taste of corn flour in the old days.

And this is one of my grandma’s recipes.

I never really thought one day I would be so desperate to make it. I thought the memory of it and its taste would be just a memory that would remain in me forever. Especially one evening, my grandma made it, and that evening was nothing special at all.

I was in primary school (probably on 2nd or 3rd grade), and it was in late autumn I think, coz I remember it was chilli but not super super cold. I walked back from school, the day light was long gone, I could see clearly the light from my grandma’s window and yellow light from the kitchen. That light made me want to be inside, a warm and family place. I was living with my grandma then, but my aunties and cousins would often stay over as well.

When I passed by the kitchen window, I could smell the garlic chives, it was a very fresh smell blended in with hot steam. After entering the house, my grandma gave me a bowl with a really big corn flour bread inside. The room was lighting up with very strong ceiling white light, and my aunties and my cousins were sitting around. I don’t remember why we did not gather around the dining table, coz as Chinese custom (and our family custom) we never eat without being together around the table.

The room was full of warmth and peacefulness, even outside was windy and cold. The smell of the garlic chives after being steamed smelt slightly different to the fresh ones, and there I could smell the corn flour bread as well. I had a bite, the corn flour wrapping with the garlic chives filling combined so well in taste. And the rest I could remember was my grandma, who had worked so hard her whole life to take care of the family that her back had bended already, was busy cooking and working around in the house.

My grandma had passed away long time ago, I had tried similar food made by other people, but nowadays, not many people would still make this kind of corn flour bread anymore, and they never brought that taste and smell back to me. For how long I haven’t had it now? So I was so determined to make it myself, and make the right taste and smell, probably one day it could pass on to my grandchildren, who knows.

In northeastern Chinese cuisine, there are two famous fillings for the corn flour wrapping, one is with garlic chives, which is a vegetarian recipe, another one is a winter recipe with pickled Chinese leaves and mince. And for the pastry, normally it is just mixing the corn flour with warm water, however, sometimes, corn flour dough is raised up. Raised flour makes the wrapping a bit thicker than the non-raised corn flour. But either way, they will be steamed in a steamer, which is always the same. In this post, I made raised corn flour dough and garlic chives to make this recipe.

Oh, if you cannot get garlic chives or you are used to its taste, try spinach instead, it is not a bad substitute.

Here it goes.


Corn flour, garlic chives, eggs, fensi (Cellophane noodles), oil, salt, sesame oil, five spice powder.


1) For the filling: see the post ‘Jiu cai he zi’, just exclude the prawns.

For the dough making wrappings: you can either mix 4 cups of corn flour or 3 cups of corn flour and 1 cup of plain flour, which is easier for holding the dough together, with 1 1/4 cups of warm water with 7gm yeast. Knead it into a dough, then let it full raise for 1 1/2 hour.

Chinese corn flour recipehow to make corn flour bread in Chinese recipe

Making and steaming:

1) Divide the dough into smaller portions, say around 5cm diameter big.

2) Press down or roll the small dough into a flat sheet, around 0.6cm thickness.

a traditional Chinese corn flour recipe

3) Place the filling in the middle of the sheet — a really generous filling, as long as the wrapping can be closed up.

making steamed corn flour bread at home

4) Close up the wrapping, because the dough is very easy to break, so use both hands to give it a squeeze — this is where the name of this recipe is from — ‘tuan’.

making simple Chinese steamed corn flour bread with fillings at homehow to make simple Chinese steamed bread with corn flour

5) Rub a bit oil at the bottom of the ‘bread’, before putting it into the steamer or put it directly on the ‘fabric’ sheet over the steamer sheet without rubbing the oil.

6) Leave it in the steamer for further 15 – 20 minutes allow the dough raise up second time.
Steam the ‘bread’ for around 8 mins after the water is boiling in the steamer.

—- Done!!

I hope you like it like I do!

Related posts:

36.Won ton and wonton soup!! I (The pastry sheet and fillings)
65. Bao zi: A Chinese steamed bread with fillings (part III)
74. Chinese Corn flour flatbread
132. Northeast Chinese shao mai (I)


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