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Difference between Sui Gow and Wontons?

My local chinese place has a great wonton soup, but I'm wondering about the menu item below it - Suey Gow. After a little web-research it looks like they're called water dumplings.

I've had a couple people try to explain what it is, but I still don't fully grasp it. What is it that makes them suey gow and not wontons? Size? Shape? Filling? Cooking Method?

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  1. Yes.The method is different .and ,generally,the Suey Gow(Water dumplings ) is bigger than Wontons.

    Wontond is come from southern of China ,and Suey Gow from the north.

    1. OK the Chinese name is written as 水餃 (for suey/sui gow in Cantonese).

      In Mandarin it is pronounced "shui jiao". Whenever it is referenced as such, it is almost always referring to Northern style Chinese dumplings. The skins are thicker, and normally upwards of 2 (rarely 3) ingredients. Common ones include pork and cabbage (e.g napa), shrimp and chive, pork and chive, chicken and corn, beans and some sort of meat, carrot and beef, lamb + veg. Think of a boiled pot sticker (e.g. Costco Ling Ling's to give you an idea but you boil em instead of pan frying, in which case they're closer to Japanese yaki gyoza). These dumplings were showcased and eaten by Anthony Bourdain in the No Reservations episode of Harbin (NE China). Also a typical Chinese New Year food, as the shape of the dumpling resembles a gold nugget crown (yuan bao).

      Cantonese style sui gow is a completely different animal than Cantonese won tons.

      Wikipedia has an entry explaining won ton

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wonton

      So what is Cantonese sui gow?

      The easy way to explain it is that it is a Cantonese won ton on steroids. It's easily x2 the size of a won ton. A sui gow should contain the following: shrimp, half lean/half fatty pork, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, woodear funghi. A classical sui gow skin should be made with duck egg yolk (there's an interesting name for this type called Fung Shing Sui Gow or Phoenix City, not sure where it came from). Cantonese won tons on the other hand, is normally pork and/or shrimp (or just mostly or all shrimp).

      5 Replies
      1. re: K K

        What he said.

        Couple of other notes:

        Wontons are usually served in soup (or broth). Water dumplings or 水餃 are merely prepared or cooked in water and served as is (not in a soup or broth), in much the way pasta is cooked in water and then served by taking it out of the cooking liquid.

        Filings are really not determinative of whether something is a wonton or a dumpling. Shape, as KK notes, is a better determinig factor.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          In san Francisco, Cantonese Sui gow are served in broth most commonly.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Cantonese 水餃 are like Mandarin dim sum ...

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Non Cantonese shui jiao 水餃....yes, just boiled then scooped out to serve, and up to the customer to season or create own dip sauce. Just like you said.

              Yes Cantonese sui gow are kind of like dim sum, but at the same time, they are not...more like a snack or side dish, although people prefer it as a main course on the cheap.

              Cantonese 水餃 (sui gow) on the other hand, is always served in a broth, or with egg noodles. This is consistent with the way they serve it at the hole in the walleries or fine dining establishments in Hong Kong, restaurants in Toronto, and in San Francisco Bay Area. Depending on the nature of the restaurant, the broth is some lazy arsed short cut of chicken bouillion cubes and/or MSG with chopped yellow chives to make it look more elegant (meaning it has little flavor but absolutely no depth), or the classical Hong Kong style laborious real deal non American Chinese won ton noodle broth of dried tilefish, shrimp shells and/or shrimp roe and pork bones (e.g. Mak's/Mak Un Kee in Hong Kong). No doubt there are hints of MSG even in the labor intensive preps.

              Maybe you can speak up for the upscale dim sum restaurants in SoCal like Elite and Sea Harbor, but I've been noticing some of the finer upscale NorCal seafood Cantonese restaurants offer Cantonese sui gow in superior broth, as a dim sum side dish, during lunchtime. In a way, this is upscaling a downscaled item with a little markup, yet retaining more authentic taste (and not at the expense of "selling out" or fusionizing dumbed down upscaled comfort food). In fact, there have been sit down tablecloth seafood restaurants in Hong Kong offering a larger portion of won ton noodles in superior broth even during the early 80s in HK. The huge yet implicit selling points were better quality shrimp in the won tons, and real effort put into the broths (unlike the random Chinatown or suburban Asian strip mall places that take shortcuts), and of course eating comfort food in a comforting environment (versus in the hole in the wall).

              1. re: K K

                No, even the order-off-the-menu places in SoCal (Elite, Lunasia, Sea Harbour, etc.) do not offer a sui-gow dish on their dim sum menu (but you certainly could order it off of their lunch/dinner menu I suppose).

                Still, more likely to find them in places that peddle Cantonese BBQ -- e.g. Sam Woo.

      2. My experience with Sui Gow is they're the same size as won ton. The only difference in the wrappers are they're round and not square. Technically you couldn't put twice as much meat in a round Sui Gow wrapper. The other difference I've experienced is the Sui Gow filling usually has meat and mushrooms and no shrimp. Again my experience and don't know how authentic it may have been at the places I've had Sui Gow.

        2 Replies
        1. re: monku

          Now that wontons have become giant and packed with a couple whole shrimp apiece, it's true. But that wasn't the case when wontons were smaller and folded in the traditional hat shape.

          1. re: monku

            That is how I differentiate sui gow and wontons too (sui gow has mushrooms and meat and no shrimp, wontons have meat and lots of shrimp). The sui gow I am used to uses the same wrapper as wontons, just the wrapping method and filling is different. Suigow is crescent shaped and pleated nicely, where as wontons are just kind of pulled all together wrapped like a little round package.

            In Hong Kong they use wonton wrappers for sui gow. I prefer wonton wrappers versus the northern china white flour wrappers.

          2. Thanks for the replies. I think I get it now. And I may even order it too. :o)

            1. So I ordered the suey gow today from my local chinese restaurant. The only difference I could tell was the shape of the dumpling. It was a little bit bigger and crescent shaped instead of round. Is it my imagination or is the suey gow wrapper thinner than the normal wonton wrapper?

              4 Replies
              1. re: soypower

                That usually depends on the restaurant and where the skins come from (or are made). You can generally buy won ton skins and sui gow skins at some Chinese supermarkets in Northern California, and I suppose some of the bigger metropolitan US cities may have it in their Chinatowns and/or supermarkets. Won ton skins are square (even Whole Foods sell won ton skins from Vitasoy made in MA), sui gow skins are circular, if not a wee bit ovalish.
                I've used both for making my own pork won tons at home and the latter for Northern style boiled dumplings (pork, cabbage, carrots, ginger, onions etc). My experience is that won ton store bought skins are generally thinner than sui gow skins (even of the same brand). Even thinner are siu mai skins.

                Did the your suey gow contain shrimp, woodear funghi (black chewy shred), mushroom, bamboo shoots, and pork?

                My guess is that the restaurant stuffed the sui gow wrapper with quite a bit of filling, they wrapped the skins snug enough so that when boiling, the contents look transparent (and tight) like a wet t-shirt contest (pardon the reference).

                1. re: K K

                  The suey gow filling seemed to be identical to their normal wonton filling - woodear and pork. Just more of it.

                  I think I'll save the extra $1 and stick with the wonton soup. At this place anyway.

                  1. re: soypower

                    I think you've just identified a "shortcutted" version of the sui gow, given your newfound knowledge of what an authentic specimen from Hong Kong should contain. The establishment probably figures it did just enough to make it seem different, but without the proper ratios and contents, it's not enough to be the ethereal experience. Perhaps try another establishment in case they can make it better.

                2. re: soypower

                  I think the skins are the same thickness, just round or square.
                  I use the round ones to make gyoza.