In , a filled bun is usually called "baozi" or "bao", while an unfilled bun is usually called a "mantou". However, in , the older word "mantou" refers to both filled and unfilled buns. Hence, the ''shengjian mantou'' is called a "mantou" despite being a filled bun. The same is true of the '''', which is called "''xiaolongbao''" elsewhere.
The name ''shengjian mantou'' is often abbreviated to ''shengjian''.
''Shengjian'' is made from semi- dough, wrapped around pork and gelatin fillings. The "knot" of the bun, where the dough is folded together, faces downwards. Chopped green onion and sesame are sprinkled on the buns during the cooking process.
The name of the bun comes from its method of cooking. The buns are lined up in an oiled, shallow, flat pan. Typical commercial pans are more than a metre in diameter. Water is sprayed on the buns during cooking to ensure the top is properly cooked. After frying, the bottom of the bun becomes crunchy, and the gelatin melts into soup. This combination gives the ''shengjian'' its unique flavour. Because the buns are tightly lined up in the pan, they become somewhat cube-shaped after cooking.
The traditional ''shengjian'' has pork fillings. Common variations include chicken, pork mixed with prawns, and pork mixed with crab meat.
''Shengjian'' is traditionally sold in lots of four . It is usually eaten at breakfast, and can be accompanied by poultry blood soup or beef soup. The buns themselves can be dipped in or Worcestershire Sauce. Because of the method of cooking, especially the relatively hard bottom, the buns are quite durable, and are therefore easily portable. They are often packed in paper bags for take-away consumption.
Some shops or restaurants sell the item throughout the day as a '''' or snack. It is rarely found as a dish in a main meal.
A similar, but less well known dim sum in Cantonese cuisine is the ''shengjian bao'', which usually uses mixed pork and vegetables for fillings.