Butaman vs Nikuman: Japanese Steamed Pork Buns

Around this time of year, convenience store chains in Japan begin selling “Chukaman (中華まん)” or Chinese-style steamed buns. They are usually kept warm in a warming showcase set next to the checkout counter.

There are many variations of Chukaman buns in Japan, where each convenience store chain offers its special varieties.

Among those, “Nikuman (肉まん)” is the quintessential one most familiar to us Japanese, which is widely enjoyed around the country from autumn to spring.

Nikuman vs Butaman: What is the Difference?

As you may know, Nikuman is referred to as “pork bun” in English-speaking countries and is relatively well-recognized even outside of Japan. 

But have you ever heard of “Butaman (豚まん)”, a variety of Chukaman just like Nikuman?

Nikuman (肉まん)

Nikuman Pork Buns

The name of the Chukaman, Nikuman can be divided into 2 words, “Niku (肉)” meaning meat in Japanese, and “Man (まん)” that stands for “Manju (饅頭)” which is the word for traditional Japanese steamed buns.

Although the word Niku can refer to any kind of meat, the main ingredient in Nikuman is usually ground pork, as seen in the English name of “pork bun”. But chicken and beef actually can also be used in the bun.

Other than ground pork, typical ingredients for the filling include finely chopped green onions, bamboo shoots, and shiitake mushrooms.

Also, ingredients such as scallop adductor, oyster sauce, and shark fins may be added to the filling for extra flavor. 

The steamed bun of Nikuman itself is soft and fluffy and usually has a white color. The dough is made by kneading wheat flour with water, sugar, yeast, and baking powder, and then leavened.

Since Nikuman is the most loved Chukaman variety in Japan, the buns can be seen in the frozen food section of supermarkets. When you want to enjoy the frozen Nikuman, you just microwave them.

Butaman (豚まん)

Butaman Pork Buns

As with Nikuman, the word “Man (まん)” in Butaman is short for Manju, while “Buta (豚)” is the Japanese word for “pig”.

So the main ingredient in Butaman is also pork. But just like Nikuman, chicken and beef can also be ingredients for Butaman.

Butaman is marketed mainly in Western Japan where “Niku (肉)” generally refers to beef. So instead of Niku, the word that only refers to pork, “Buta (豚)” is used to refer to pork buns. 

Thus, Butaman and Nikuman are essentially the same things.

(Reference Page: Wikipedia 中華まん )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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