In this article, I will teach you how to make Butaman, one of Osaka’s most delicious dishes.
Table of Contents
What is Butaman?
These buns are made from flour, water, sugar and yeast. The filling is usually made from pork and onion, however places use different ingredients such as bamboo shoots or shiitake.
The name differentiates throughout Japan with some areas calling in ‘nikuman’ and some ‘butaman’. In the Kansai region, ‘niku’ os specified as beef so they call it ‘butaman’ (buta a meaning pork). However in other areas of Japan, ‘niku’ is referred to as meat, with no indication of which type of meat. Therefore these areas call it ‘nikuman’. Check out this blog on butaman, here!
History of Butaman
Butaman actually originates from the Chinese steamed bun called ‘bao’. Dating back to the 3rd century, military strategist Zhuge Xiang, created 50 ‘buns’ that were shaped like humans head. These were thrown into a river to deceive their opposition and gain an advantage in the war. Due to the huge success of this mission, it became popular with the Chinese. People wanted to celebrate this victory by replicating these ‘buns’ and thus the bar was formed. Various meats and vegetables filled the fluffy bao. However, while the real origin of the bar is unknown, each area has its own take and speciality on the now famous dish.
Chinese culture slowly started to make its way into Japan with various Chinese restaurants and ‘chinatowns’ popping up in different cities. From here, the Chinese bar was given a Japanese twist. The filling was replaced with Japanese flavours including ginger, spring onions and ground pork. This filling is very similar to that of Japanese dumplings.
Alternatives to Butaman
Butaman gradually grew in popularity throughout Japan and as a result, various flavour combinations can be found!
Inside is a sweet red bean paste, which can usually found in convenience stores and department stores. The fluffy dough and sweet red been paste is a perfect match for any one with a sweet tooth! Sometimes the red bean is mashed so it becomes a smooth paste or still has some of the whole beans left inside for more texture. Either way it is delicious!
Char Siu Man
You know the delicious, tender pork topped on ramen? Imagine that but boiled in a sweet and slightly spicy sauce, stuffed inside a bun with a cloud like texture. This is one of my favourites!
Although it might sound weird at first, pizza man is actually really tasty. The dough acts like the pizza base, with the tomato, cheesy deliciousness packed inside. You can find pizza man at most convenience stores!
Japanese curry is an extremely popular dish throughout the country. The dough is flavoured with tumeric creating a distinct yellow colour. Furthermore, the inside is packed with the spicy curry sauce with some delicious tender pork.
If you go to some speciality shops, you may be able to find even more variations such as seafood, chocolate and custard. There are also some seasonal buns such as Sakura with its bright pink buns. Keep on the lookout these special buns.
How to make Butaman
- 160ml lukewarm water
- 300g all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2tsp yeast
- 1Tbsp neutral flavoured oil
- 175g pork mince
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 5 Chinese cabbage leaves
- 2 cloves of grated garlic
- 1tbsp salt
- 1tsp sugar
- 1tbsp Sake
- 2tbsp Soy Sauce
- 1tbsp Sesame Oil
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Chilli oil (optional)
- Sesame seeds (optional)
To start preparing the dough, pour the lukwarm water into a bowl along with the yeast. Let this sit for a couple of minutes. In the meantime, place 300g all purpose flour, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1tsp baking powder, 1 1/2tsp yeast, 1Tbsp neutral flavoured oil in a bowl and mix together.
Pour the water and yeast into the flour mix and stir with a wooden spatula. Once incorporated, start to kneed with a floured hand.
Once the dough starts coming together, place on a floured surface and start kneeding. Pull back and forth, kneeding for about 10 minutes until smooth.
Wipe oil on the inside of a bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and place it in a warm space for 1 hour.
In the meantime, start making the filling. Cut the green leaf off the Chinese cabbage and slice it thinly. Place it in a bowl and add salt to draw out the moisture in the cabbage.
Pour hot water into a bowl along with the dry shiitake mushrooms. This will rehydrate the shiitake.
After 5 minutes, drain and squeeze out the excess water of the cabbage and shiitake.
Chop the shiitake mushrooms into small pieces.
Add the pork mince, shiitake mushrooms, Chinese cabbage leaves, grate garlic, salt, sugar, sake, soy sauce, sesame oil, cornstarch and pepper all into a bowl and mix well. Set aside.
Once the dough has risen, roll into a log and cut into double the size of a golf ball.
Flatten the dough with your palm. Then holding it with your left hand, use your right hand to roll the rolling pin from the outside to centre. Keep rotating the dough as you return to the edge of the dough with the rolling pin.
Keep repeating until you have a circular shaped dough. Place a tbsp of mince filling in the centre.
Holding the dough with your left hand, use your right hand to make pinches on the outside of the dough and slowly bring to the center. If you’re making several butaman, place them on a floured tray and cover with plastic wrap to stop them drying out.
If you do not have a bamboo steamer, I will tell you a little home trick! Get your biggest saucepan and place a small bowl in the middle. Place a plate with some cooking paper, on top of the bowl and make sure it is balanced evenly. Pour hot water in the bottom of the saucepan and turn on the heat. Close the top with a lid and now you have a steamer!
Bring the water to a boil and then lower the heat so the water is simmering. Place your butaman on top of the place and cooking paper and close the lid. Steam for 10-15 minutes depending on the size.
Check out the video below on how to make butaman!
Where to Eat Butaman
This shop is one of the most famous stores in Osaka to enjoy Butama. It originated in 1945 by three taiwanese people living in Osaka. They perfected the fluffy dough with the umami packed pork filling and created the name 551. 5, in Japanese, is read as ‘go’ and 1 is read as ‘ichi’. As a result the meaning refers to ‘go go number one’. In 1964, the company split into three restaurants: 551 Horai, Horai and Horai Bekkan. The first two both sell butaman
In 551 Horai, the butamans are all handmade and you can actually watch them being made at each store. As a result, the freshest and highest quality butamans are available each day. The only pre made ones are available at Shin-Osaka station. In addition, the size of each bun is quite big with there filling being packed in as much as possible. Finally, mustard is an added topping that adds another unique flavour to the butaman!
Next is Horai, which also sells butaman (don’t get this mixed up with 551 Horai!). The main distinction is that they use frozen butaman so they re available across the country. The buns are fluffier and they use more vegetables such as onion and shiitake mushrooms. Despite them being frozen, they are still incredibly delicious!
Phone Number: 06-4797-0551
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10:00-20:00, Sat & Sun 10:00-21:00
Address: 〒530-0001 3 Chome-1-1 Umeda, Kita Ward, Osaka
Futami no Butaman
Although 551 Horai is the dominating shop for butaman, Futami no Butaman also has some great quality buns available! Located in the Nankai-Dori, they sell one item and one item only. Butaman. 1 bun costs 200 yen and they also have boxes of 3 and 4 for 600 and 800yen respectively. Of course they are best eaten straight away, however you can buy box sets of them and they give you instructions on how to prepare them in your own home.
Compared to 551 Horai, the dough is larger but a lot more fluffier and lighter, making it easier to eat. The inside it filled with pork as well as onions. The sweetness of the onions adds further umami flavour to the pork. You can feel the texture of the onions as well, adding a slight bite to the butaman.
Phone Number: 06-6643-4891
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 11AM-10PM (Thursday closed)
Address: 〒542-0076 3 Chome-1-19 Nanba, Chuo Ward, Osaka
When the temperature starts to drop in Autumn, convenience stores start to sell their butamans. A warmer next to the register, showcases an array of butaman, pizza man and other seasonal buns. Their classic butaman comes piping hot and is filled with juicy pork. At just 111 yen from Lawson, it is an absolute bargain. Every time I am hungry, I always go to a convenience store for a butaman, they are that good a value.
The pizza man is also surprisingly tasty. At first i was a bit hesitant to even try it but the cheesy tomato filling with the soft bun really replicated that of a pizza. Although I found it tasty, I always find myself going back to the butaman. Nevertheless, try them both!
If you are in Japan for an extended period of time or staying at an apartment, you might end up cooking for yourself. Most supermarkets sell frozen butaman, which you can heat up and enjoy like a freshly steamed one! These are surprisingly good despite being frozen and cheap. The ones I have eaten, the buns are not as light as the ones from convenience stores but the filling is just as delicious! These butamans are great to have on hand if you are ever craving one.
If i am ever looking for a snack, I think butaman is one of the first things I look for. The availability of them in convenience stores is so handy and is great to refuel and also warm up on a cold day!