It seems like a good idea to use different kinds of starchy root vegetables like purple Chinese yam and pumpkin to make steamed rolls, right? Can’t you see the vibrant yellow and purple colors and your mouth just waters? Unfortunately, the viscosity and high water content of these starchy root vegetables mean the recipes for these steamed rolls must be modified otherwise the end product is nothing like the traditional rolls. 


Most of these starchy root vegetables, e.g. purple Chinese yam, pumpkin, taro, and sweet potato, don’t have a strong or assertive taste so beginners tend to put more than is needed into the dough attempting to make the steamed roll taste like the root vegetable used. But the excessive amount makes it difficult to shape the dough and the steamed dough is dense, gummy, and no longer elastic.


To avoid these unpleasant side effects, the proper vegetable and flour ratio and how it is added to the dough should be strictly followed. It can be added in as a paste then blended into the dough; it can be chopped up roughly then quickly mixed into the dough so the veggie retains its shape. This recipe will focus on the blending method with purple Chinese yam and pumpkin. Recipe #295 will introduce the quick mix method with taro and sweet potato.


The purple Chinese yam and pumpkin taste bland in the steamed roll, so they are primarily used for coloring the dough and their nutritional value. Using less than of the total dough weight will give the dough a vivid color. Using more will not make the steamed roll taste any better.


The best way to make these starchy root vegetable steamed roll is to start with a spongy dough. The dough is first overly fermented (resting and rising process) to create the spongy texture, starchy root vegetable and other ingredients are kneaded into the spongy dough, and followed by one last fermentation. Since the dough is fermented once before the vegetable is added, the second fermentation will not affect the color and taste of the vegetable.


The last fermentation step is the key to the success of the steamed roll. Not enough fermentation, steamed roll’s texture is dense and gummy; too much fermentation leads to flattened rolls filled with large holes inside.


Bamboo steamers are the best for steaming the rolls. The bamboo gives the rolls a fresh taste. Please refer to previous recipes on proper usage of metal steamers if bamboo ones are not available.


The steaming process is rather straight forward. Steam with low heat first, turn the heat off and release the steam from the steaming baskets, and steam again with medium high heat. This twice steamed method gives a nice sheen on the surface of these delicious rolls and ensures the rolls are thoroughly cooked.


It is worth noting that the steamed rolls sold on the market usually have baking soda (~½ teaspoon) to reduce the glutinous (chewy) nature of the dough. It is OK to add the baking soda in these homemade rolls but I rarely use it. My family enjoys the slight chewiness of these all natural and nutritious steamed rolls!



Spongy Dough




Water                      90 g

Instant dry yeast     1 teaspoon

All purpose flour    150 g




1.Put all dough ingredients into a bowl and whisk together with a pair of chopsticks. Once the ingredients are well mixed, knead the dough with hands until it comes together into a smooth dough.

2.Cover the bowl and place the bowl in a warm place (28°C or ~80 – 85°F) for 3 hours. The dough should have increased in size, soft, sticky, with visible small pores on the dough surface, and a slight wine scent.




Purple Chinese Yam Steamed Roll    Yield: 14



Purple Chinese yam    90 g net weight

Spongy dough             240 g (1 portion size)

All purpose flour         135 g

Sugar                           45 g

Salt                              ¼ teaspoon

Oil                               30 g


flour (to prevent sticking)



1.Peel the yam, cut into small pieces, and process it with a food processor or a blender until it becomes a thick paste. Put the yam paste and other ingredients (except oil and hand powder) into a bowl.


2.Whisk the ingredients with a pair of chopsticks. Add the oil and whisk a little bit more then knead the dough until everything comes together like a ball.


3.Divide the dough into 2 portions. Use the hand powder if the dough sticks to the hands or working surface. Keep the unused half covered to prevent the dough from drying out. Use the pasta machine to roll out the dough (see note 1) until the dough becomes smooth. The dough will lengthen while it is rolled out by the pasta machine but do not flatten or pull to lengthen it intentionally.


4.The length of the rolled out dough is about ~28 cm (~11.4 in) in length. Roll the dough into a stick. If the dough is too long, push the ends in while rolling.


5.Cut the dough stick into 7 equaled sized portions with the aid of a ruler. Repeat steps 3 – 5 with the other half of the dough. There should be 14 pieces total.

6.Place the rolls in the steaming baskets lined with steaming lining paper (to prevent the rolls from sticking to the bottom of the steaming basket). Place the steaming baskets in a warm place (38°C  or ~100°F) for 20 – 30 minutes to rise again. The area for the final rise should not be too humid nor too dry. The skin of the dough will be too tough if the area is too dry.


7.The rolls are ready to steam when it feels soft while lightly pressed.


8.Put the steaming baskets on the steamer after the water boils. Steam the rolls for 10 minutes with low heat.

9.Turn the heat off after 10 minutes and open the lid to release steam. The surface of the steamed roll should be dull.


10.Put the lid back on the steaming basket, turn the heat to medium high, and steam for another 5 minutes. Fully cooked steamed rolls have a sheen on the surface.




The dough can be rolled out with a rolling pin if a pasta machines is not avaialable. Or cut the dough directly into 14 portions then shape them into rounds.




Pumpkin Steamed Roll    Yield: 14



Pumpkin               100 g net weight

Spongy dough       240 g (1 portion size)

All purpose flour  135 g

Sugar                     35 g

Salt                        ¼ teaspoon

Oil                         30 g


flour (to prevent sticking)



1.Cut the pumpkin into small pieces, remove the seeds, then steam for several minutes so it softens a little. Make sure the steam vapor doesn’t drip down into the pumpkin and make it too moist.

2.Put the steamed pumpkin pieces into a bowl and mash it into a paste.


3.The rest of the steps are the same as making the purple Chinese yam steamed rolls.

Divide the dough sticks into 14 pieces.


4.Let the dough rise again then steam.













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