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Xiao Long Bao vs. Dumplings [split from LA]

(Note: This topic was split from the LA board at: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44114... -- The Chowhound Team).

Technically, XLB is a bun (or "bao").

Dumplings are, well, dumplings.

Wordsmithing aside, XLB are generally smaller than dumplings and are filled with "soup" -- meaning that the filling (either pork or crab or whatever) is usually made with some type of stock such as pork or vegetable. XLB are usually steamed.

Dumplings are generally larger in size, and are either boiled or pan-fried (although some can be steamed, but those are rare). The fillings for dumplings (whatever they might, pork, beef, seafood, etc.) are dryer in texture -- dryER, not dry -- not made with a significant amount of stock.

The skins on dumplings are also thicker in comparison to those of XLB. XLB skins should also be sort of translucent, and have a nice sheen or patina to them, esp. if they are steamed properly using good bamboo steamers.

The formation process is also a bit different. XLB are formed form bottom up, so that the bun is twisted and pinched to a close on top. Dumplings are formed more like a crescent moon and are not pinched, but rather should be formed by pleats (if that makes any sense at all ...

)

Places of origin also differ. The XLB you have in mind, i.e. soup dumplings, are Shanghainese in origin. Dumplings are generally from northern China, think Beijing and the like.

Hope that helps.

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  1. okay, so basically, even though they're filled with soup, the luscious dumplings soup dumplings aren't xlb because they're bigger and thicker skinned?

    26 Replies
    1. re: mcsmcs

      It's much more of a cultural/linguistic thing

      In Mandarin, there is no generic word for 'dumpling'. Every dumpling has its own individual name, be it a xiao long bao (soup dumpling), jian jiao (pan fried dumplings) or baozi (steamed soft bread bun filled with bbq pork or other fillings). Chinese people consider them all 'dumplings', in that they are all some kind of savory starchy thing filled with some kind of meaty/veggie thing.

      Also, if you hang out with non-American Chinese people long enough, you'll find that they don't get all caught up in semantics. They don't particularly care what it's called, as long as it tastes good. (similarly, you'll find that hardly any Chinese people use chopsticks the 'correct' way illustrated on the chopstick wrapper.... they really don't care, as long as it works)

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      1. re: Mr Taster

        the generic term for dumplings is jiao zhi.

        1. re: wilafur

          While jiaozi is technically a more generic term, in practical usage when Chinese people use it they generally mean water boiled dumplings. (the specific term for water boiled dumplings is shui jiao)

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        2. re: Mr Taster

          Pan fried dumplings should be "gwou-tei". I've never heard of it called "jian jiao"

          Also, don't you think it is a rather gross generalization to say that non-American Chinese people don't care what something is called (many do!), or that hardly any Chinese people use chopsticks the right way (just ask my grandparents who are sticklers about how chopsticks should be used...)

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Gwou tei literally means "pan fried" whereas jian jiao means, more or less, "pan fried dumpling". (jiao like in jiaozi or sheng jian bao.) Again it's semantics, as long as it tastes good.

            As for the chopsticks, I challenge you to go into any restaurant in the san gabriel valley and find any more than a small handful holding their chopsticks in the chopstick-wrapper prescribed way. I am constantly amazed by the limber digits of Chinese people (including my Taiwanese wife) who somehow manage to pick up slippery dumplings holding the sticks with their middle finger between the two, or parallel with a pivot of about 2 mm.

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            1. re: Mr Taster

              But no one refers to pan-fried dumplings as "jian jiao". It's always "gwou tei".

              Speaking as a person who cannot use chopsticks the right way (despite the consternation and concerted efforts of my grandparents), I don't disagree with you about the sad state of chopstick use in most SGV establishments. But that still doesn't mean people don't care about it ... heck, in fact I'm reminded how important a skill it is every time I'm with family.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                My Taiwanese wife always refers to pan fried dumplings as jian jiao... maybe it's a mainland/Taiwan linguistic quirk (there are plenty of those)

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                1. re: Mr Taster

                  i am from taiwan as well. it may linguistic, however, i have never used the term jian jiao. i typically call pan fried dumplings gwou tei as well (essentially a shui jiao that has been pan fried). however, if the variety is the thicker skinned and round bao type that is pan fried, then i call them shui jian bao.

                  1. re: wilafur

                    This is an interesting point you bring up wilafur, which I think I am going to post/ask on the General Chowhound board.

                    What's the best way to make pan fried dumplings (gwou tei). Pan fry raw dumplings, or pan fry dumplings that have been cooked, i.e. water boiled.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      raw. put in enough water to cover the dumplings @ 3/4 and when the water evaporates, add some oil and cook till the bottom is nice and crunchy.

                      1. re: wilafur

                        Or you can try the way my father in law does it... add a slurry of water and flour to the pan and cook over low/medium heat covered for 3-4 minutes. Afterwards, lift up the lid and turn the fire on high. When the water from the slurry evaporates, you're left a fantastic, ultra thin, crispy pancake with pan fried dumplings stuck in the middle which should slide out of the pan whole. You can then break up the pancake so that each dumpling is ringed with a lovely, crispy chip of sorts.

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                2. re: ipsedixit

                  i actually found this picture from taiwan looking for something else...the sign says "jian jiao" although you're right ive always called them "guo tie" and i've never heard anyone say "jian jiao"

                   
                  1. re: Lau

                    Wow, the dumplings in that picture look huge. Are those from the Barry Bonds Balco kitchen of dumplings?

                    And, plus, what do Taiwanese people know about proper etymology and language? JUST KIDDING!!!!!

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      I wonder if the source of this difference comes from the fact that my wife has lived her entire life in Taiwan (until just recently) whereas I get the sense that ipse and others have lived in America for much longer.

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                      1. re: Mr Taster

                        my dad was born in taiwan and my mom was raised in taiwan (i was born in taipei but moved to thes tates when i was 2) and i have never heard them use the term jian jiao....only guo tie.

                        1. re: wilafur

                          I would be very curious to know if your mom's experience coincides with my wife's, who has beenout of Taiwan for less than 3 years.

                          Mr. Taster

                          1. re: Mr Taster

                            where is your wife from in taiwan? maybe that has something to do with it?

                            1. re: Lau

                              Taya, outside Taichung

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                              1. re: wilafur

                                I meant your mom's experience with the term guo tie vs. jian jiao.

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                                1. re: Mr Taster

                                  will ask her this weekend when we have dinner. =)

                  2. re: Mr Taster

                    "...Gwou tei literally means "pan fried" whereas jian jiao means, more or less, "pan fried dumpling"..:"

                    Mr. Taster, "Gwou Tei", or in the Pinyin system, "Guo Tie" literally means "Pot Adhesive" (not "pan fried"), but more like what's been translated as, "Pot Stickers".

                    But as far as the usage of "jian Jiao", I'm with you there. I've heard "jian Jiao" as well as "Guo Tie" to mean pan fried dumplings.

                    BUT, Guo Tie (Pot Stickers, let's call them) should be in a special shape so that they are longish with a flat long bottom to "adhere" to the pot to make a nice crispy, slightly charred skin. In this case, the skin at the bottom can be slightly thicker than the rest of the dumpling.

                    Whereas "Jian Jiao" could be shaped like Guo Tie, OR just be regularly half-moon shaped dumplings that are pan fried instead of steamd or boiled.

                    As for the notion tha "dumplings are rarely steamed", (i think that was ipsedixit's post), I'll have to say that they almost always steam the vegetarian dumplings.

                    ************************************
                    Another thing about Xiao Long Bao, and Sheng Jian Bao that can be deceiving is that even though they are both "Bao" (just means to contain, or to wrap up), the dough are completely different. Not going into the exact detail of what sorts of flours (as in gluten content), but just the fact that one (Sheng Jian Bao) uses a leavened dough, and the other, (Xiao Long Bao) doesn't, should make them different enough. On top of that, Jiao zi uses yet another type of dough.

                    Lastly, there are different sources as to where Xiao Long Bao as we know it today in the US originated. Let's just say from the looks of the soup dumplings in the US, I'm inclined to believe it didn't start in Shanghai, but in Kai Feng - as discussed in this thead
                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/429821

                    1. re: HLing

                      Agree HLing.

                      While vegetarian dumplings tend to be steamed more often, most from what I have seen are still boiled. I do, however, enjoy steamed vegetarian dumplings to those that are boiled. Since the filling is so light, steaming seems the perfect way to prepare them.

                      And, you're right, sheng jian bao aren't really dumplings. They are buns, much like char-siu baos are buns and not dumplings.

                      1. re: HLing

                        I agree with HLing on 'Guo Tie' vs. 'Jian Jiao' definition. The only time I've ever heard of 'Guo Tie' is in relation to the larger/longer pan fried dumplings. I've heard 'Jian Jiao' used as a term most often for pan fried half-moon dumplings, the same type which can also be boiled as in 'shui jiao'. I've never seen the longer dumplings boiled.

                3. re: mcsmcs

                  "okay, so basically, even though they're filled with soup, the luscious dumplings soup dumplings aren't xlb because they're bigger and thicker skinned?"
                  _____________________________________________________

                  Hmm ... Well, no, not really.

                  That would be like saying that the difference between a burrito and a taco is just that one is rolled up and the other isn't.

                  Or that the difference between a hamburger and a sandwich is that the hamburger patty is circular and the cold cuts for sandwiches aren't.

                  Or that the only difference between bourbon and scotch is ... the Atlantic Ocean! :-)

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    After watching Anthony Bourdain's episode of No Reservations Shanghai, it is easy to see why non Chinese people like to call XLB soup dumplings.

                    There's also a XLTB (xiao long tang bao), but in Shanghai they put it in a small container inside a bamboo steamer. You don't need the skin, but they poke a straw through and you sip the hot soup through the straw. It's the size of a fist or bigger. Then there's the Din Tai Fung version of DRY XLB with a side of broth.
                    Not my bag.

                    Then there's shen jian bao, which is also a pan fried dumpling, doughy xlb, basically. I've also heard it referred to as shui jian bao.

                4. here in Sichuan I've not yet seen them called xiao long bao, but many places specialize in soup dumplings (tang bao) and they are sold by the long (steamer basket).

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: pepper_mil

                    pepper mil,

                    Do you know the difference, or why there is difference in nomenclature, between xiao long bao and tang bao?

                    Tang bao, literally translated, means soup dumplings. But like you say, they are sold in long steamer (bamboo?) baskets, which is exactly how xiao long baos are prepared and served.

                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      According to my Chinese friends, tang bao implies that it has more soup than meat. Xiao long bao is a more generic term. If you make it with more soup, it becomes xiao long tang bao.

                      1. re: raytamsgv

                        Interesting.

                        I don't think I've ever heard anyone refer to them as "xiao long tang bao".

                        Now, I've got to go look for some "xia long gang bao". :-)

                        Live and learn.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          There are a million things that could be said about the cultural and linguistic confusions piling up in this string, but I have time for only one: Xiaolongbao, generically speaking, are not "soup dumplings." They are a small, meat-filled steamed dumpling with a dough that is breadier, puffier, than a shuijiao dough. In fact, most of the time you could call them a bun rather than a dumpling, but I won't be a stickler for that rule, simply because some makers' dough is more dumplinglike than others'. While it's true that there may be a bit of liquid inside the typical xiaolongbao, it's simply juice cooking off the meat filling.

                  2. Sorry to join the party late, but there seems to be many misconceptions about these terms.

                    Jiao Zi - generic term for all things "dumpling", which includes shui jiao, jian jiao, guo tie, zheng jiao (steamed dumpling)

                    Bao Zi - generic term for all things "Bao Zi", which includes XLB, XLTB, SJB, etc.

                    As a person from Shandong, there are generic terms for both dumplings and XLBs. Dumpling is called Jiao Zi as someone mentioned. XLBs are part of what's called Bao Zi family. Jiao Zi are usually boiled or steamed. Bao Zi are usually steamed, but never boiled.

                    Both Jiao Zi and Bao Zi can be pan-fried. (The Chinese for pan-fry is "Jian") If Jiao Zi is pan-fried - it is called either Jian Jiao or Guo Tie. Jian Jiao (Short for Jian Jiao Zi - meaning pan-fry Jiao Zi) is a common Shandong home-style food for pan-frying previously boiled (already cooked) Jiao Zi.

                    Guo Tie on the other hand are made differently from Jiao Zi and also cooked raw by pan-frying directly (instead of boiled first). When Bao Zi is pan-friend, you get something called Sheng Jian Bao(SJB or Shui Jian Bao). When we mention pot stickers, it is usually referring to Guo Tie and not Jian Jiao, as it is not really a restaurant dish here.

                    In terms of Bao Zi, Shanghai-style XLB as what people are most familiar with here are what we call Xiao Long Tang Bao as someone mentioned. There are XLB in the north as well, but those do not necessary contain soup. The Shanghai style XLB technically a sort of XLTB.

                    Yes, it can all be very confusing, but the bottom line is XLB nowadays are most often referred to the Shanghai style steamed version, where as dumplings are most often referred to the Shandong/Northern style dumplings. Guo Tie is basically a sort of pan-fried dumpling.

                    Here's an old post I dug up.
                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/21494...

                    Pictures of ShengJianBao:
                    http://eat.tanspace.com/2007/06/16/sh...

                    Then there's also ManTou...
                    http://eat.tanspace.com/2003/02/11/ma...

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: tanspace

                      You can't just throw in Man-Tou in the discussion as if it's par for the course. That's a whole 'nother genre of food. That's like bringing up lasagna when everyone's been talking pizza.

                      Well, alright, if you're going to raise a ManTou, then I'll see your ManTou and raise you a Hwa-Jwen ...

                      Nice blog by the way.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Thanks. I'll see your Hwa-Jwen and raise you a JiuCaiHeZi (Chives Box).

                        But agreed, ManTou and these other Chinese "xiaochi" can be a thread of their own.

                        1. re: tanspace

                          JiuCaiHeZi = chives box.

                          That's a great literal translation.

                          What would Hwa-Jwen be? Flower roll? Flower wrap?

                          And, have you ever had a "wa-wa chou"?

                          1. re: tanspace

                            These are all the kind of things you see on menus under "Mian-lei" - wheaten/flour dishes.

                            Have to agree with tanspace (and am dredging this up from the past, but just read it)

                            From what I remember in beijing - there was a big difference between jianjiao and guotie'r. Jianjiao were often left over boiled shuijiao (or steamed jiaozi - YES there are steamed jiaozi) that were pan fried - shallow fried, oh hell, sauteed in a wok - usually we had them for breakfast.
                            Guo tie'r stuck to the side of the guo/wok BECAUSE the jiaozi-like slightly larger chinese paste ripiene were fried along with a slurry that made a thin skin that stuck to the side of the pan and adhered to all the potstickers - the skin was really thin and nice like the edge of a crepe. and was broken up with the guo tie'r in the plate.

                            man tou was also a breakfast treat, or even eaten instead of rice with a meal. I found that while eating rice, i would have difficulty finishing even one bowl, one eating a meal with mantour or with the slightly seasoned wheaten noodles that we'd get instead of rice, I was a bottomless pit.

                            Rice therefore was better for me, although the wheat dishes hit the spot.

                            for me.

                            1. re: Jerome

                              Mantou would generally not be eaten with rice, but instead of rice, or in place of it.

                              Traditionally, mantou was eaten in the North in China because rice was in scarce supply.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                actually we agree. I never ate mantou at a meal with rice, and if my post implied it, i apologize for the unclear writing.

                                I dont' know if it was because rice was in scarce supply. wheat has been grown along the yellow river for a long time and further north. There are folks in beijing who prefer wheaten products to rice, certainly in hebei you can find it. rice is great as the yield per cultivated acre is very high so you can feed more people with it - which explains why japan engineered a whole society around channelling water to create fields appropriate for growing a tropical crop in a temperate climate. Maybe someone else can find the stats for the average yield DIFFERENCE per acre/hectare between rice and wheat.

                                Also, btw, I remember that in Xi'an, they had a local version of xlb, called guan-tang baozi
                                灌湯包子 (灌汤包子) lit. liquid-filled packets. Beef, lamb, three-flavor, in Kaifeng they make them with pork as well.

                                photo at
                                http://www.flickr.com/photos/azn5t/17...

                                1. re: Jerome

                                  Dunno know about the stats for yield/acre between rice and wheat, but I think it is generally harder to grow and cultivate rice in cooler climates of Northern China, than in the Southern and coastal regions.

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    ok i'm not going to spend more time than i just did - but rice is known to give more per arable unit than wheat. Even in Nepal (website source - http://209.85.141.104/search?q=cache:...
                                    )In Nepal - inhospitable high and not optimal for rice...
                                    rice yield per cultivated hectare - 1968 kg
                                    maize - 1417 kg
                                    wheat - 1181 kg
                                    millet - 826 kg

                                    Of course, rice cultivation is much more labor intensive, but the result for the landlord is higher per acre yield. As for taste though, ipsedixit, you make it seem as though it's a given that rice tastes better and that wheat is somehow a consolation prize.

                                    I prefer the taste of wheat to that of rice. cultural? maybe. But in any case, it just shows that preferences aren't obvious or universal, and I would venture to state, not even among the Han population.

                                    And, given the higher yield, limited arable land and high population, it makes sense that Japan would have taken to rice. You need much more arable land, but less water, for a similar yield in wheat, or buckwheat and definitely for millet.

                                    OK this is edited here but at http://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications...
                                    charts 1-11 for wheat and 1-31 for rice shows for US , 2004-5
                                    US yield per hectare, milled rice - 5.54 metric tons; wheat - 2.90 tons

                                    (China" " " milled rice - 4.42 metric tons; wheat - 4.25 tons which shows closer planting -maybe less mechanized - odd that the difference is so small in China...) too much information i guess, but i thought it was interesting, in the wheat vs rice debate that comes up on occasion when discussing chinese regional cuisines.

                                    1. re: Jerome

                                      - could be - looking at other charts - that chinese varieties of wheat may be higher yielding. durum wheat is incredibly high yielding in california and arizona.

                                      and now - back to what tastes good.

                                      1. re: Jerome

                                        The stats could be very different when looking at historical data - if even available - when going back to the general periods in history when wheat was chosen over rice as a staple grain crop. Technology and varieties would be extremely limiting factors to begin with, not to mention social factors (water rights, political intercourse etc.)

                                        My guess would be that since rice is most productive in tropical to temperate climates, the yields of varieties available "back then" probably dropped off dramatically in the more northern latitudes where growing seasons were shorter, average temps lower, and water more scarce.

                                      2. re: Jerome

                                        "As for taste though, ipsedixit, you make it seem as though it's a given that rice tastes better and that wheat is somehow a consolation prize."

                                        _____________________________________________________

                                        Far from it Jerome.

                                        Given the choice, I would rather have day-old stale man-tou, or hwa-jwein, than freshly cooked rice.

                                        Thanks for the erudite research nonetheless.

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          greatest apologies. i misread (easy for me to do).

                                          -- ps i drove all the way out to WEST COVINA (yes) to try and find the chineseypage listed tong sheng xian for the xi'an paomo. there is no building anywhere near the address listed. Have you heard of anything out there (this is 2707 valley near nogales north of rowland heights). It's a wheaten bread broken into small spaetzle sized chunks with a spicy lamb soup poured over them - they swell and become dumpling- like. I was also hoping they would have the Shaanxi version of xlb - Guan Tang Bao Zi.

                                          But they're not there.

                                          if there anywhere.

                                          1. re: Jerome

                                            Interesting Jerome.

                                            I'll have to ask some of my friends who own restaurants in the Rowland Heights/Industry area. I have never heard of such a place before.

                                      3. re: ipsedixit

                                        Rice was was grown in northern China in ancient times by the Yangshao culture (5000 - 3200 B.C.) when it was much warmer and more humid than it is today there. Before wheat arrived in China from western Asia during the Neolithic era (8000 - 6000 B.C.) there was foxtail millet and panicum millet. Rice certainly became more important as the Chinese expanded southward. Rice was still being grown in the north during the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 A.D.) but not as much as wheat or millet.

                                      4. re: Jerome

                                        Jerome, did you visit what's left of the Jewish community in Kaifeng? (Basically one old lady in a hutong house... nearly the entire indigenous Jewish population has left for the cities... this old lady's granddaughter was studying in Israel when we visited).

                                        Kaifeng's night market was awesome... the best one we experienced in Asia outside of the multitudes in Taiwan. And a huge muslim population... I got some kind of corned beef from a vendor that would knock the socks off Katz's.

                                        Mr Taster

                                        1. re: Mr Taster

                                          kaifeng aka bianjing - never made it.

                                          BUT china islamic people at Garvey - they're from Henan They might even be from Kaifeng.

                                          still have to go (the number goes up and down. there are supposedly some hundreds of descendants left)

                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                  Well, xlb are called xiao long man tou in Shanghai.