Golden Danzhou Steamed Bun dipped in brown sugar sauce is a fabulous summer snack. [Photo by Liu Xiaomeng/Hainan Daily]
The people of Danzhou, a city in northwest Hainan province, have a special liking for local steamed buns. A few dozen different types of bun are popular in the city, such as Danzhou's white steamed bun and green rice cake.
It's common to see people order a plate of Danzhou Steamed Bun and a pot of black tea in a traditional teahouse during afternoon tea time. It offers a different experience from a modern teahouse, as its buns are served on colorful ceramic bowls.
Steamed buns are made primarily of polished round-grained or glutinous rice. The rice must be ground to make rice milk after being soaked in clear water for several hours. Long ago, people had to make steamed buns purely by hand. They had to patiently grind the soaked rice until there was no grain particles left.
Locals like to add various ingredients such as red dates, peanuts, and brown sugar into the rice milk to enrich its flavor before it is steamed. There is a variety of colored steamed buns, including white and gold, and they all taste soft and sweet.
Steamed cakes are different from rice cakes, another tasty snack made from glutinous rice filled with sweetened peanuts, sesame, and coconut shreds. But unlike rice cakes, steamed cakes have no fillings except for things like chopped green onions and sesame oil. Danzhou Steamed Bun is usually served with brown sugar sauce to make it sweeter and less sticky.
Su Shi, a literary figure from the Song Dynasty (960-1279), once wrote a poem praising Danzhou Steamed Buns, which contributed to the snack's success in the region.
Today, the Danzhou Steamed Bun is popular not just in Danzhou, but can also be seen in special snack bars in Sanya and Haikou in Hainan province.