Chukaman 中華まん is the Chinese steamed bun rather flavored in a Japanese style. Though the Chukaman used to be a fast food sold at stalls in Chinese towns, they are now available at convenience stores and it has become increasingly popular as a winter comfort food.
The Chukaman comes in various flavors just like those for pies and they are basically sorted into two sorts, meat bans or sweet bans. The most popular Chukaman is the meat ban called Niku-man 肉まん, a pork-ban, usually available at any convenience stores. Since the Niku-man is so familiar that we often take Niku-man as Chukaman. Carry pork bans, Pizza bans, Cheese bans, Sweet potato bans are variations available at some of those stores.
Nikuman Bun 肉まん VS Butaman Bun 豚まん
Here comes another Japanese word related to Chukaman. That is Buta-man 豚まん. The Niku-man pork-ban is actually called Buta-man in Osaka and the vicinity. Buta-man is literally translated to Park-ban. The people there want to tell exactly what the ban has in it as they are more familiar with beef than pork and Niku-man is literally translated to meat-ban.
The confusing thing is that there are stores selling both Niku-man and Buta-man as different bans, though the both is a park-ban. This is complicated even for local Japanese people. In this case you may tale the Niku-man is regular pork-bun and the Buta-man comes with more pork in it.
How to buy Chukaman at a convenience store.
Most of the convenience stores have a warming showcase (steamer) of Chukaman bans near the checkout counter where you can order your ban. You are not allowed to take bans from the showcase by yourself. There are labels with photos put on the warming showcase, helping customers to tell what bans are available, and you can select and order bans accordingly. The bans are sold at between 120 JP Yen and 200 JP Yen. If the labels are only in Japanese and is hard to understand, you may point a label of the ban you want and order with saying;
(To buy one bun)
This one please
これを１つください。Koreo Hitotsu Kudasai
(To buy two different buns)
This one and this one please.
Kore Hitotsu to, ato, Koreo Hitotsu Kudasai.
Bans are steamed and kept hot in a warming showcase. If the bans are just restocked in the showcase and are not hot enough, the shop attendant may refuse to sell or ask customers to wait. It might take about 30 minutes to warm them up.
Chukaman are also sold at super markets or online stores.
Chukaman sold at super markets are in a package, usually comes with 3 or 5 bans. Using a steamer (10-15 mins.) is best to warm them up, but you can also use a microwave steamer (7-10 mins) or simply a microwave oven (1 min 40 sec./ ban*). *It will take more time for frozen bans.
In case using a microwave oven, put very little water on the ban to make its surface wet and cover softly with plastic food wrap. It is better not to wrap tightly as it will swell out by steam.
Putting some Karashi mustard makes Chukaman tastes good. For people from Fukuoka in south Japan, putting Kurozu vinegar on Chukaman is the must. Enjoy!