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Current styles of steamed bread in China

S. Huang

BRI Australia, North Ryde, NSW 2113


A great change has taken place over the last ten years in China, and as a result of the fast economic growth, people's living standards has steadily improved. The consumption pattern of wheat based foods has changed to include more Western-style products and more food is purchased in supermarkets. Western style pan bread has become a significant breakfast food in cities and western-style cakes are used for young people's birthday celebrations. There are more and more American-style fast food outlets, which have become favourite sources of food for kids and young people. However, traditional wheat based foods such as Chinese steamed bread are still popular. The steamed bread manufactured in factories is mostly Guangdong style, southern style and or a style between northern and southern styles, this has resulted from the use of a no time fermentation procedure. Even so, individual steamed bread producers still make typical northern style steamed bread for the market. There is a big flow of labourers from the countryside to cities all over China and this has changed demand for steamed bread products, resulting in an increase in the range available across regions. To understand how the market for steamed bread has reacted to the changes in consumption patterns, a focus group was arranged to review the current styles of steamed bread.

Materials and methods

Steamed bread

There were two sets of steamed bread samples: Set 1 was selected from 8 steamed bread samples purchased from a Beijing supermarket. Set 2 was produced by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science (CAAS).

Set 1 steamed bread samples (see Figure 1)

A: Is a typical steamed bread of northern style with dense, firm and very cohesive texture.

C: Is also steamed bread of northern style with slightly less dense, firm and cohesive texture and sweet taste.

E: Is called steamed bread with special flavour made through three-time fermentation.

Ingredients: flour, water, and vegetable oil. It is also steamed bread of northern style with a slightly less dense, firm and cohesive texture.

F: small steamed bread made in Beijing - southern style steamed bread.

Ingredients: flour, water, sugar, fresh milk, and yeast, white cream, coconut juice.

It has soft, elastic and open texture.

G: A small steamed bread made by Fushan Food Co., Guangdong - a Guangdong style steamed bread. It was very soft, elastic and had quite an open texture.

Ingredients: flour, water, yeast, sugar,

H: A steamed bun with red bean paste made by Goody Food co. - a Taiwanese investment.

Ingredients: flour, water yeast, and sugar, fat. This is a typical Guangdong style steamed bun.

Figure 1. Structure comparison of set 1: steamed bread samples (A, C, E, F, H and G)

Set 2 steamed bread sample

Set 2 steamed bread samples were made in a laboratory in CAAS using Chinese wheat flour (Ningchun 4). Flour protein: 11.8%, water absorption: 60.4%, dough development time: 5 min, Ext: 18.9 cm and Rmax: 195 B.U.

The three steamed breads were labelled as number 1, 2 and 3 samples made with water addition of 70, 80 and 90% of Farinograph water absorption respectively.

Origin of panellists

There were 15 participants, nine of who were born in northern China and 6 were born in southern China. Ages ranged from 30 to 60 years, 40% were female and 60% were male. Among them, 5 were from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science, where the Chinese Centre for Wheat Quality Improvement was located. Another 5 were from the Chinese Academy of Science and Technology of State Grain Administration, where the national flour standards are set.

Sensory preference test

Each set of steamed bread samples were reheated and cut into smaller pieces. Each panellist was given one set of cut steamed bread samples to evaluate. Panellists were asked to identify their preference and provide reasons for their choice.

Results and discussion

The preference of the panellists on different style steamed bread is presented in Table 1. Among the nine people who were born in the north of China, eight preferred northern style steam bread with the exception of only one person. On the other hand, among 6 people, who were born in the south, 2 persons preferred southern style, 2 persons preferred both southern and Guangdong styles, while another two persons preferred northern style. This indicated the important influence of childhood food experiences.

No panellists identified the Guangdong style steamed bun as their unique preference, and it was noted that none of the panellists were born in Guangdong, Hainan province and Hong Kong region. This should be addressed in future work.

Table 1. The result of preference test on set 1 steamed bread samples








Born in north






Born in south







a One lady, born in Beijing, claimed that she preferred southern style steamed bread because she had a very strong influence from her mother, who was born in southern China.
bOne gentleman, who was born in southern China, preferred typical northern style steamed bread.
One gentleman, who was born in southern China, preferred northern style steamed bread.

The test on the second set of steamed bread samples was carried out after the test on set 1. Comments on the three samples were quite consistent and the panellists considered that sample 1 was very firm and sample 3 was very soft, while sample 2 was of moderate firmness. The majority of people preferred sample 2, while only a few preferred samples 1 and 3 with their birth place of the north and south respectively.


It was quite clear that northern, southern and Guangdong styles steamed breads still exist in the market place and are recognized by consumers. In big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, three styles of steamed bread are often available in one supermarket to meet the changed requirements. There is a trend towards softer northern style steamed bread in the cities of northern China. There are also steam breads in the market, which have mixed or less distinguishable characteristics. The influence of childhood was very important for the preference of steamed bread. Once it was established, it did not appear easy to change. Today the influence of different styles of steamed bread for children is more complicated than for the older generation, when only one style steamed bread was available, which was made at home or at canteen in the workplace. Adding to the complication, fast food outlets are a favourite place for children to eat, where they are exposed to soft and sweet baked buns. It is expected that these influences will lead to a trend towards softer and sweeter style steamed breads in the future.


Author would like to thank Grains Research and Development Corporation and BRI Australia for financial support. Appreciation is also due to Dr. Zhonghu He, Mr. Dongsheng Chen and Ms Yan Zhang from CAAS for the arrangement of the meeting and photos of steamed bread samples.


Huang, S., Quail, K., and Moss, R. 1995. In: Proceedings of 45th Australian Cereal Chemistry Conference, September 10-14, 1995, Adelaide, pp. 307-311.

Sidi Huang, Wheat Products 2: Bread, Cakes, Cookies, Pastries and dumplings in ‘Asian Foods’ Technomic, Lancaster, Pennsylvania (1999).

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