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Discussion

The Etymology Of Dumplings & Buns Relative To Chinese Cuisine [split from L.A. board]

[This thread was triggered by the discussion here: http://chowhound.chow.com:80/topics/7...

]

"Soup dumplings" are dumplings in soup... (see photo).

"Xiaolongbao" are a whole different animal; XLB are steamed individually and not in any soup (though, if well made, there is juice inside)... (see other photo).

The terms are NOT interchangeable.

Which one are you looking for on the Westside?

 
 
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  1. Damn that XLB looks good. Where is that photo from? And why do I suspect it's not in LA?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Porthos

      Ripped the photo from a writeup of Kao Chi Restaurant in Taiwan... Bamboo steam cages are "verboten" by the LA Health Dept., from what I understand.

      1. re: J.L.

        Bamboo steamer aside, the XLBs themselves look so plump and perfectly made and delicious with the little bit of crab roe/juice on top. Just a cut above what we have here in LA. The version at Jin Jiang is probably the closest.

        -----
        Jin Jiang Restaurant
        301 W Valley Blvd Ste 109, San Gabriel, CA 91776

        1. re: Porthos

          Kao Chi if I got it right, is just around the corner from flagship Din Tai Fung (Xinyi) Taipei.

    2. OK, you guys who use acronyms for various components of Chinese meals are obviously out of my league, but I'll forge ahead - Based on the photos J.L. posted, I don't think either one (tho they look delicious) are what I'm after. The dumplings I've had before at Mandarin House of Noodle and its predecessor, Mandarine Noodle Deli, are boiled dumplings served in a dish that looks like a muffin pan. There is liquid "soup" inside the dumpling.

      1 Reply
      1. re: BobinLA

        BobinLA: the xlb you had in tiny muffin tins are an inferior version of the one in the picture (in the steam basket). The ones in the little tins are also steamed, not boiled.

      2. XLB are called "soup dumplings" in New York. Just like "chow mein" is served without noodles in Miami.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Chandavkl

          Just like "chow mein" is served without noodles in Miami.
          ====================================
          Really? Even at Tropical?

          1. re: Porthos

            Not every Chinese restaurant, but that is the historical convention in restaurants that cater (even in part) to non-Chinese diners. If you want noodles you order "lo mein".

        2. Aww, c'mon, J.L.

          Are we really going to open up *that* discussion again?

          I thought Pandora had taken her box home with her, no?

          :-)

          50 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            This is why I prefer mandu. In soup, or out. Steamed or pan fried. All mandu. Those Koreans know how to KISS... ;-D>

            1. re: ipsedixit

              I'm too OCD on this issue, I know... I'll try to seek some sort of therapy for this...

              1. re: J.L.

                Trust me. I know *exactly* how you feel.

                It still makes my skin crawl when people equate XLB with "dumplings". Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  I will say that we lofan have come a long way from the Chinese-Polynesian restaurants of my youth and thinking a Pu Pu Platter was Chinese specialty and Chow Mein was a dish without noodles.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I get that baozi / mantou are different from jiaozi in Chinese, but I think "dumpling" is probably the most accurate translation possible if you're going to refer to them in English.

                    1. re: will47

                      No, XLB are boazi 包子

                      It's based on shape more than anything else.

                      Dumplings, or 餃子, if done properly are generally crescent shaped.

                      Whereas boazi or 包子 are pouch shaped.

                      If you look at pictures of XLB, they are clearly the latter, and not the former.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        You tell 'em, ipse!

                        OK, back to OCD therapy for me...

                        1. re: J.L.

                          Save a seat for me in the room.

                        2. re: ipsedixit

                          I know the difference between the two. Not only is the shape different, but the texture of the dough is somewhat different.

                          My point is that there's rarely a 1:1 mapping that is always applicable with translation. Jiaozi translates to dumpling because that's the closest approximation in English. That doesn't mean that other things do not also translate to "dumpling" in English, because "dumpling" is a less specific word than 'jiaozi'. Baozi is usually rendered as 'bun' in English, and this is confusing, because to me, it implies something made with risen dough. Just because the other type of bao are translated as "bun" doesn't mean that baozi = bun.

                          There are plenty of examples of things we consider to be "dumplings" in English which aren't crescent shaped, aren't Chinese, don't have filling, etc. etc. "Dumpling", to me, is the English word that could best be used to describe what a xlb is, even though a xlb is not a jiaozi. So yes, it's of course more proper to call them baozi (or mantou, if the Wikipedia article is correct about the original Shanghai name for them), but if you're going to render it in English, I don't think it's fair to say that "dumpling" is wrong.

                          1. re: will47

                            Baozi is usually rendered as 'bun' in English, and this is confusing, because to me, it implies something made with risen dough. Just because the other type of bao are translated as "bun" doesn't mean that baozi = bun.
                            _______________________________

                            This is where we disagree.

                            I'm not sure why you think baozi connotes risen dough.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              I don't!

                              I think that BUN connotes risen dough.

                              Baozi does not, but baozi isn't an English word. Of course, using the Chinese name is more correct. My comment is simply that if you must translate XLB to English, it's not incorrect to call it a dumpling.

                              To put it a different way:
                              All jiaozi are dumplings, but not all dumplings are jiaozi

                              If you have to explain to someone with no knowledge of Chinese what xiaolongbao are, "dumpling" is the name that will best convey the category of thing it is, not "bun".

                          2. re: ipsedixit

                            Just weighing in.

                            If you go by nomenclature. It's a baozi.
                            If you go by the wrapper thickeness and texture, it's more like a dumpling.

                            Regarding shape, I'm going to have to agree with will47. Dumplings to not have to be crescent shaped. Case in point: hargow, shiumai, wonton. Not crescent shaped, but clearly all dumpling by nomenclature and also regarded as dumplings with little disagreement.

                            1. re: Porthos

                              Dumplings to not have to be crescent shaped. Case in point: hargow, shiumai, wonton. Not crescent shaped, but clearly all dumpling by nomenclature and also regarded as dumplings with little disagreement.
                              ___________________

                              None of those are dumplings.

                              And I vehemently disagree with the notion that they are "clearly all dumpling [sic] by nomenclature" and regarded as such "little disagreement."

                              I can tell you for a fact that no one in my family considers a wonton a dumpling -- i.e., a joazi 餃子. None of my friends either, for that matter.

                              This raises an interesting point -- and not necessarily something directed at you, Porthos.

                              But why do people need to categorize foods into broad categories, esp. ethnic foods.

                              I don't think there is this tendency for non-ethnic foods (in our case, "American").

                              For example, if someone says, "What is a hamburger? Is it a sandwich?" I think the answer would be "Well, no, it's a hamburger."

                              Same with, say, a hot dog. Do we try to categorize a hot dog as a -- what? -- sandwich? a roll? No, we don't. It's just a hot dog.

                              So, then, going back to the examples in Porthos's post. A shumai is just that -- a shumai. A category all unto itself. Same with hargou, wontons, and dare we say, XLB?

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                None of those are dumplings.

                                And I vehemently disagree with the notion that they are "clearly all dumpling [sic] by nomenclature" and regarded as such "little disagreement
                                =====================

                                "har gow" (cantonese)= "xia jiao" (mandarin) = shrimp dumpling. The nomenclature is clear and these are direct translations so there should be little room for debate. If you're saying that just because it's called "jiao" that it doesn't make it a "dumpling", then you'll have to conceed that just because XLB is called "bao" that it doesn't make it a "bao zhi".

                                As for wonton, I brought that into the mix because the photo JL posted of "dumplings in soup" is actually wonton in soup if I am not mistaken--no crescent shape, triangle flap of adjacent wonton centered in photo. Ingredients of wonton and dumplings can be identical from filler to wrapper except for egg in the wonton wrapper. Egg in the wrapper doesn't disqualify wonton from being a dumpling since that would be like saying pasta that contains egg, is not not pasta.

                                So back to what makes a dumpling a dumpling. You cite only the crescent shape. But a wonton has 3 shapes: the triangle one (the type that looks to be in JL's photos), the one where you fold it into a square first, then connect the ends so it looks like a pillow, and the one where you just pinch the ends together. All 3 shapes are still considered wonton. So shape should not be the only requirement that defines a dumpling or wonton or bao zhi.

                                Now XLB may indeed be a category of its own if we're going to get academic about it. But then that would mean that people calling XLB "dumplings" aren't necessarily wrong.

                                PS. Why such rigid nomenclature for XLB but such blatant disregard for "pork pump"?

                                1. re: Porthos

                                  It's more than just shape, but given the linguistic differences attributable to culture, it's probably the best way to differentiate the two.

                                  But like you said, shape is not a sufficient condition -- a necessary one, maybe -- but not sufficient. Because after all, an ugly dumpling is still a dumpling. Same with har gow, etc.

                                  The point is, what makes a dumpling a dumpling (as opposed to a bao or a bun) is context.

                                  When a relative or a friend says to me, "lets go get some dumplings (餃子)" neither of us will even think of a har gow, XLB, or shumai as possibilities.

                                  In other words, the quiddity of a dumpling, 餃子, transcends cultural differences that cannot be bridged by language.

                                  P.S. And do you mean that the "pump" isn't actually a part of an animal?

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    And do you mean that the "pump" isn't actually a part of an animal?
                                    ====================

                                    ***insert adult film joke here***

                                    1. re: Porthos

                                      And do you mean that the "pump" isn't actually a part of an animal?
                                      ====================

                                      ***insert adult film joke here***
                                      _____________________________________________________

                                      I think I just lost my appetite for all things dumplings, buns and all parts of the pig ...

                                      Nice chatting with you Porthos. Cheers.

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        Good chatting with you too. See you in 4-5 days for the next XLB/dumplings/bao zhi discussion :)

                                    2. re: ipsedixit

                                      It seems like you're making the same logical flaw (jiaozi -> dumpling so dumpling -> jiaozi) over and over again. [sorry - longer version of this post got eaten by Chowhound after I tried to edit it]

                                      >> When a relative or a friend says to me, "lets go get some dumplings (餃子)" neither of us will even think of a har gow, XLB, or shumai as possibilities. <<

                                      Are you saying this in English or in Chinese? It may well be true that this is what you or I mean when we say "dumpling", but that doesn't make it so for the entire English speaking universe. Further, you're the one arguing *against* a descriptivist model below, when you're the one who's arguing that your usage of the word "dumpling" should trump its dictionary definition. It may be more specific and more correct to say "bao(zI)" (I don't think anyone here is arguing otherwise), but it's useless to someone who doesn't know what a bao is, and that's where general categories come in handy.

                                      Pierogi are dumplings, but not jiaozi. Ok, pierogi are crescent shaped and have filling.... well, gnocchi are also dumplings. Ravioli are also dumplings.

                                      To look at if a different way, if you took 50 native English speakers from the US, with minimal knowledge of Chinese food, and stuck a steamer of xiaolongbao in front of them, what word do you think they'd use to describe them?

                                      And yes, I do consider a hamburger a sandwich.

                                      1. re: will47

                                        Part of the difficulty lies in that certain dishes have become so popular that they have their own distinctive descriptions. For example, the usage of "har gow" or "wonton" have become so specialized that even if they were originally dumplings, they are no longer considered dumplings, which is a more generic description.

                                        A rather *limited* analogy would be someone labeling a bagel as a donut. To a non-Westerner, they are very similar: round with a hole and made of wheat. But to people familiar with them, "bagel" carries a different connotation than "donut". There are also many different types of donuts.

                                        1. re: will47

                                          When I say "Let's go out for dumplings" to my friends or family. No one replies, "Ok, do you want XLB or wontons?" You'd be laughed out of the conversation.

                                          Similarly, if I say "你想吃饺子?" No one I know will answer "你想吃小笼包或馄饨?" Again, you would get quizzical looks.

                                          Just doesn't translate.

                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                            Using that same scenario, if you were to say, I bought some bao zhi from the market. Would anyone assume you meant XLB or be confused as to whether or not you meant XLB? Probably not.

                                            Bascially we've just proven that XLB are XLB and that if someone calls them "soup dumplings" it's understood that they're talking about XLB and not dumplings in soup. Everyone here including JL, Ipse, and Ipse's friends and family knows that soup dumplings = XLB in English.

                                            1. re: Porthos

                                              I can't stand its usage, but alas, the term "soup dumpling" has crept its way into the English vernacular.

                                              The friggin' thing may not even hold any soup at all if it's not properly made!

                                              OK, gotta go back for more OCD therapy...

                                              1. re: J.L.

                                                Does not properly made include oversized renditions with cabbage mixed into the pork filling?

                                              2. re: Porthos

                                                Everyone here including JL, Ipse, and Ipse's friends and family knows that soup dumplings = XLB in English.
                                                ________________________________

                                                Not sure that's true. If you said "soup dumplings" (in English) to my folks, they wouldn't know what the heck you were talking about.

                                                Look, I think my problem is when people say "XLB are dumplings" or "XLB are soup dumplings". Eh, does not compute.

                                                Now, I can stomach (pun intended) if someone were to say "XLB are like dumplings" or "XLB are dumplings with soup inside, or in other words 'soup dumplings'".

                                                I'm ok with people comparing an XLB to a dumpling, but to say that they *are* dumplings is just not correct.

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  You keep repeating the same things over and over, but you don't seem to be listening to what anyone else is saying. You also haven't yet said anything that shows that xiaolongbao do not meet the definition of a dumpling, or that it's somehow incorrect to say that they are dumplings, other than "my family and friends mean X when they say 'dumpling', so that's what a dumpling is.".

                                                  Dumpling in English is a very general term, and if jiaozi fits it, so do baozi.

                                                  http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictio...
                                                  http://oxforddictionaries.com/definit...

                                                  It is absolutely correct to say that xiaolongbao are dumplings in the same way it's correct to say that gnocchi are -- probably you'll use the more specific term if you know it, but a specific term from another language (e.g., baozi) is 100% useless to someone who doesn't already know what it is.

                                                  "We're going to eat some gnocchi."

                                                  "What are gnocchi?"

                                                  "Well, they're a pillowy Italian dumpling made out of potato and flour".

                                                  As I've said like 8 billion times, of course it's more useful to use the specific term, but xiaolongbao still fit the description of a dumpling just as much as any of the other things we're talking about.

                                                  1. re: will47

                                                    Well, I guess now I'm convinced.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      If you found a section of a menu that said "Dumplings" and under it were listed har gow, shumai, xlb and wontons, each with more specific descriptions under them, would you keel over in a dead faint? Or would you see the category being accurate, as far as an overall heading?

                                                      1. re: Servorg

                                                        If you found a section of a menu that said "Dumplings" and under it were listed har gow, shumai, xlb and wontons, each with more specific descriptions under them, would you keel over in a dead faint? Or would you see the category being accurate, as far as an overall heading?

                                                        ________________________

                                                        I would get up and leave, knowing I was in the wrong restaurant.

                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                          Had exactly this happen in a Bay Area restaurant last week that even had "Dumpling" in the restaurant's name. The menu itself referred to "buns and dumplings," but the only "real" dumplings were pork dumplings and vegetable dumplings. The rest of the category included beef bing, wontons, XLB, shen jian bao, onion pancakes etc. etc. It was disappointing, but not totally surprising.

                                                      2. re: will47

                                                        While we're at it, XLB are nowadays served in Cantonese dim sum restaurants.
                                                        I thought they were not served in HK dim sum places, but they do now...even Michelin star'd Tim Ho Wan has them, with shark fin inside...

                                                        When certain English speaking foodies say "let's go for dumplings" (in English), they can also mean yum cha even though some of us are thinking "Northern Chinese jiaozi". And XLB inevitably falls in the dumpling clumping lumping of the category.

                                                        Then you go to some Northern restaurant, Shanghainese for example, the Chinese menu or weekend brunch menu says "dien xin", translates to dim sum. Non Chinese folks may think, hey where's the ha gow, siu mai?

                                                        A popular dumpling starch based snack shop that also serves buns + baozi is inevitably called Bao Jiao Dian and inevitably called "Dumpling Shop" in English.

                                                        Such is life.

                                                        1. re: will47

                                                          I think we should just all agree to disagree.

                                                          1. re: raytamsgv

                                                            I think we should settle this with a duel. Or by jousting.

                                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                                Don't you mean "Dumpling" eating contest? :-)

                                                                  1. re: Servorg

                                                                    Maybe DTF could sponsor a, um, ahem, eating contest a la Nathan's.

                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                      You mean the Ding Tai Feng that has "Dumpling House" as its sub-title?

                                                              2. re: DeppityDawg

                                                                Assault weapon, a steamer of XLB

                                                                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ApnOy... circa 0:21

                                                                hell hath no further like a dumpling scorned.

                                                                  1. re: scoopG

                                                                    I'd prefer ginger spears, pre-soaked in vinegar, of course.

                                          2. re: will47

                                            Particularly since many Chinese restaurants actually use the term "dumpling" on their menu when referring to XLB, e.g., juicy pork dumplings.

                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                Except at some point popular usage becomes proper usage and I think a majority of the restaurants serving XLB refer to them as dumplings on their menu.

                                                1. re: Chandavkl

                                                  Isn't that therapy chair lookin' real good right about now?

                                                  1. re: J.L.

                                                    Thanks for all the lessons, but you could call them Chinese Steamed Hot Dough Pockets With Pork or Pork and Crab and Soup Inside, or even just call them Henry and so long as they were good tasting XLB I'd be happy.

                                                    1. re: estone888

                                                      Well at least we are not debating whether it is

                                                      xiao long bao

                                                      xiao long man tou

                                                      guan tang bao

                                                      guan tang bao zi (like how they call it in Xian or parts of the NE)

                                                      tang bao

                                                      tang bao zi

                                                      guan tang xiao long bao

                                                      xiao long tang bao

                                                      :-)

                                                      1. re: K K

                                                        They also called it 小籠包子 (xiaolong baozi) at a Chinese restaurant named Chugoku Hanten in Japan

                                                        http://www.chugoku-hanten.com/blog/xi...

                                                  2. re: Chandavkl

                                                    Except at some point popular usage becomes proper usage
                                                    ===============================
                                                    Like pork "pump" in LA.

                                      2. Hey! My reply has been split to a thread unto its own! Truly I am honored, ChowModerators...

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: J.L.

                                          Or maybe you're just a troublemaker!

                                          1. re: Chandavkl

                                            Better a "dumpling maker" than a troublemaker... ;-D>

                                            1. re: Servorg

                                              And at this point, as long as it's food and it's good, who cares what the name is? Just eat it!!! :D :D :D