The Difference: Butaman vs Nikuman Pork Buns
Around this time of year, convenience store chains in Japan begin selling “Chukaman (中華まん)” 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 and each Japanese convenience store chain offers its own special varieties.
Among those, “Nikuman (肉まん)” is the quintessential Chukaman bun that is most familiar to us Japanese and is widely enjoyed around the country during the period from autumn to spring.
Nikuman or Butaman
As you may know, Nikuman is referred to as pork buns in English-speaking countries and relatively well-known even outside of Japan. But have you ever heard of “Butaman (豚まん)”, a Chukaman variety just like Nikuman?
The name of the Chukaman, Nikuman can be divided into 2 words, “Niku (肉)” meaning meat in Japanese and “Man (まん)”, an abbreviation of “Manju (饅頭)” which is the word for traditional Japanese steamed buns.
Although the word Niku refers to any kind of meat, the main ingredient in Nikuman is ground pork as shown in the English name of “pork buns”. But chicken and beef can also be used in the Chukaman bun.
Incidentally, other than ground pork, typical ingredients for the filling include finely chopped green onions, bamboo shoots, and shiitake mushrooms, and sometimes scallop adductor, oyster sauce, or shark fins are also added to the filling.
The steamed bun of Nikuman itself is soft and fluffy, and usually white in color. The dough is made by kneading wheat flour with water, sugar, yeast, and baking powder, and then leavened.
Since Nikuman is the most beloved Chukaman variety in Japan, the buns are also available in the frozen food section of supermarkets. When you want to enjoy the frozen Nikuman, you just microwave them.
As with Nikuman, the word “Man (まん)” in Butaman stands for Manju, while “Buta (豚)” is the Japanese word for “hog” or “pig”, so the main ingredient in Butaman is also pork, but just like Nikuman, chicken and beef can also be ingredients in the bun.
Actually, Butaman is sold 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 )