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Sep 26, 2012 03:33 PM

wonton vs dumpling

Is there a difference between wontons and dumplings? My mother argues that wonton soup is just dumplings boiled in broth, however when I order wonton soup the wrapper often seems thinner/more fragile than a dumpling wrapper. Any thoughts on this debate?

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  1. The thickness of the dough does not define a dumpling

    1 Reply
    1. re: chefj

      That was my thought, so what does? It seems the article suggests wontons are dumplings made with thinner wrappers "the skin wrapping for wontons is different—thinner and less elastic—than that used for jiaoz"

    2. It sounds like you are trying to compare a Chinese boiled or pan fried dumpling to a wonton. In that sense, yes they are different. But if your mother is considering "dumplings" in a generic sense, then she is correct. A dumpling is a doughy food item, often filled with something. So in this context, wontons and jiaoze are two different types of dumplings.

      So you are both correct. :)

      2 Replies
      1. re: TorontoJo

        hmm, we are comparing generic chinese takeout - order of dumplings vs wonton soup

        1. re: fldhkybnva

          OK, then you are correct. Wontons and dumplings use two very different style of wrappers and very different style of wrapping. As you said, dumplings have a thick doughy wrapper made of just flour and water, while wontons have a much thinner wrapper made with flour, water and egg. The fillings are similar, but not quite the same (wontons often have chopped water chestnuts and minced shrimp in addition to the pork).

      2. They are the same. Dumpling/wonton are interchangeable. Wonton is the Cantonese rendering of the Mandarin "hundun" - 餛飩 húndun - which means "dumpling."

        Here are dozens of photos showing the variations of hundun:


        6 Replies
        1. re: scoopG

          Hmm...I wasn't aware of hundun meaning "dumpling" generically. I've only ever used that word to mean the very specific type of dumpling you show in that google search. Those are all wontons/hundun. But the steamed/pan fried/boiled dumplings with the thicker skin that the OP is referring to are most definitely not hundun. They are bao or jiaozi or guotei (please forgive the bad pinyin). And all of those are different than hundun, but they are all dumplings.

          1. re: scoopG

            Oh, and in case you missed it, the OP posted photos above of the two items s/he is trying to compare. The one on the left is clearly a pot sticker/guotei and the one on the right is a wonton/hundun.

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Yes, and the Cantonese use "雲吞", rather than "餛飩".

              1. Difference is shape and the manner in how they are served.

                2 Replies
                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Not at all. 餛飩 húndun = Wonton = Dumpling.

                  1. re: scoopG

                    hundun = wonton = one specific TYPE of dumpling. And this type of dumpling is different than the "other" dumpling that the OP is asking us about. If you were served xiao long bao (yet another type of dumpling by any definition) and told people that they were hundun, I don't think there would be a single Chinese person that would agree with you.

                2. There are variations.

                  Cantonese wontons as found in Hong Kong and Macau, are served in a dried tilefish based broth with shrimp heads and roe, garnished with young yellow chives. The wonton fillings are mostly shrimp (and some versions have pork). The skins are thinner and generally square shaped, and are folded in a very particular way (easiest way is to put a small spoonful of filling in the middle then fold it diagonally like a triangle, then cross the ends and fold. The end result after boiling the wontons is that the skin around the filling is form fitting, with a smooth slurpy texture for the skin slack (the excess should drape like goldfish tails, if done professionally). It's more common to pair with egg noodles but can also be ordered as plain wontons in broth.

                  I never had the Cantonese/Chinese American version of wonton soup, but the skins appear to be thicker, and the soup is mostly chicken based, and is less complex in nature compared to its Cantonese counterpart in Asia. There are wontons that are also primarily pork (some versions with very little shrimp, or no shrimp at all).

                  Wontons in chili oil is a famous Sichuanese interpretation, basically boiled pork wontons (and fairly small, snack sized portion) garnished with chili oil, scallions, and whatever else. You can also find wontons in some Shanghainese restaurants (also called huan duan) where it is typically some sort of vegetable paired with pork, typically served in a very light broth. Many Shanghainese restaurants have also recognized the value of adding carbs to make it more filling, and also serve it with noodles upon request. They say that Cantonese wontons were brought down by immigrants in China (Yunan or Hunan) and evolved.

                  In Taiwan and perhaps parts of Fujian (China), wontons are best enjoyed in a broth (usually chicken bone or pork bone based), and may be garnished with scallions, seaweed. The broth is a very important component, and is also a light snack or a quick fix meal/comfort food. However the whole package (broth and wontons) is more known as Bian Chih/Chir...that's just the way it is called. Shops that specialize in BC usually also offer small dishes/cold appetizers, which is part of the experience.

                  With Northern Chinese dumplings (commonly referred to as jiaozi which is the Chinese word for "gyoza" in Japanese), the skins are much thicker, and the shape as ipsedixit mentions below is different. You can see dumpling and gyoza skins in many Chinese or Japanese supermarkets, mostly a circular shape (whereas wonton skins are always square, you can even find them at Whole Foods) Northern Chinese dumplings are folded/molded to resemble the shape of a "yuan bao" or Chinese gold crown/nugget. Usually 2 to 3 types of fillings. If boiled they are usually not served in a broth (but you could to enhance enjoyment, where in Taiwan it is not uncommon to find beef noodle shops selling boiled dumplings served in beef broth, and can be quite excellent), where the key to enjoyment is to dip them either in black vinegar or soy sauce + sesame oil + garlic (at a minimum) and/or with chili sauce.

                  The Cantonese version of the boiled Northern Chinese dumpling is called sui gow, which in Mandarin is shui jiao, but bears little to no resemblance beyond the size/shape. Cantonese sui gow's have shrimp, pork, fatty pork, woodear funghi, bamboo shoots....can call it wontons on steroids. The broth is the other important component, and a fantastic shui gow skin should be made with duck eggs (although much harder to find unless you go to Macau or maybe one or two places in HK tops).

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: K K

                    Correct KK, as the photos illustrate. In the end they are all dumplings though. Pan-fried dumplings(鍋貼 -guō tiē), Boiled Dumplings (水餃 - shuǐ jiǎo) and Steamed Dumplings (蒸餃 - zhēng jiǎo).

                    1. re: scoopG

                      That reminds me of the time my Chinese teacher was totally baffled by the fact that we only had one word for "dumpling " in English.