A new collaboration between Wonderbao and Chamil Kelly, former head chef and manager of Wonderbao, Mantou made its debut appearance at the 2015 Melbourne Night Noodle Markets. Kelly came up with the DIY concept of combining buns with other flavours and meats. These flavour combinations were created together with Matti Fallon, former chef of DuNord and Huxtable, and focus on Taiwanese, Japanese and Korean flavours.
First up was the Soft Shell Crab with Japanese seven spice, rice wine pickled root veg and Kimchi mayonnaise. The juicy crab was well flavoured and a great match with the mantou, and the absence of a thick batter meant the flavour and texture of both the crab and the bread could be fully appreciated. Deep fried to give it a piping hot and lightly crispy outer, breaking open the soft and pillowy mantou released a lovely sweet aroma and revealed an amazingly evenly fluffy bun. Even though the buns were deep-fried, the fryers were set at a temperature sufficient to avoid a thick layer of oil soaking in to the bun. Nobody wants oily, soggy mantou, which would make for rather unpleasant eating.
We were recommended to try the braised pork with cumin, coriander, orange and roasted chilli gravy. The meat was tender, with a light char to excite the tastebuds even further. The deliciously punchy flavour of the braised pork, with only a subtle nuance of cumin made this a winner in my books.
Moving on to something sweet, we had the Coconut Lime Custard with kaffir lime powder, crushed roasted sweet peas, condensed milk and fried mantou. The South-east Asian flavours paired with the mantou made this quite a novel dessert, though not one to leave till later, as the condensed milk will reduce the likelihood of you enjoying the crispy buns if left too long!
Mantou ended up being my favourite stall at the Night Noodle Markets this year. There isn’t anything like it yet in Melbourne, and it was executed very well. Here’s to hoping they make an appearance again in the future!
Disclaimer: I was invited to visit Mantou as a guest, however , opinions expressed here are purely my own and not influenced by them in any way.