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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. 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"

      1. re: chefj

        The thickness of a dumpling skin can vary but is usually always thicker than wonton skin.

        1. re: TomatoSaw

          funny, i was going to say the opposite... wontons to me always have a sheer, almost translucent skin and it must be a different dough because its is more slippery. its also a more solid piece of wrapper versus dumpling wrappers which are more stretchy.

          but i do agree iwth you that wontons and dumplings, at least as a chinese person would see it are very different things.

          1. re: FattyDumplin

            Forget about dumplings because dumplings is too board term, and it is also an English term.

            Let's just talk about the difference between Wonton (餛飩/雲吞) and Jiaozi (餃子): both Chinese terms. The thing is that there are extreme cases which you can call out if the item is a wonton or a jiaozi. Cantonese fresh shrimp wonton (鮮蝦雲吞)is a clear case of wonton: it is made with thin wrapper with shrimp, pork and dried fish filling and served with high quality broth. Meanwhile, Shangdong jiaozi (山東餃子) is a prime example of jiaozi: it is made with a thicker and doughy wrapper with no shrimp filling and served on plate without broth and eaten with dipping sauce.

            However, there are many things in between and cannot be easily classified by one or two rules, or rather they break the rules. There simply isn't a magic line there.

            For example, Hong You Chao Shou (紅油抄手) is not served with broth and always served with the chilli sauce. So should it be a jiaozi? However, it is usually made with thin to medium wrapper. Of course, it is usually consider as a side dish, not a main meal unlike Jiaozi.


            What about Cantonese crystal shrimp jiao or Har Gow (蝦餃)? Its name is a Jiaozi. However, it is made with shrimp filling, and it uses probably the least doughy wrapper out there (wheat starch). In this sense, it is even more wonton than the classic Cantonese fresh shrimp wonton. So should it be wonton? Yet, it is not served in a broth, and its name certainly command it to be a Jiaozi. What is it? It breaks a lot of the so-called rules.


            What about soup filled dumpling (灌湯餃)? It is called a Jiaozi. However, it is often served in very high quality broth.



            I think if we honestly take a step back, then we will realize that there isn't a very clear distinctive line drawn for wonton vs jiaozi. This makes the terms somewhat interchangeable in many situations.

            Again, there are some clear cut cases, but there are plenty in-between/tough-to-call examples.

      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:

          21 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".

                  2. re: scoopG

                    I'm cantonese. 餛飩 measn wonton not dumpling. 饺子 is dumpling. Wontons are very different from dumplings and the words are not interchangeable. The pictures from google on your post are wontons not dumplings.

                    1. re: TomatoSaw

                      For Cantonese, the two things are not interchangeable, and they are exclusive from each others. In other regions, the two terms can be interchanged.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        In most of China, if you serve someone dumplings after promising them wontons, they will correct you. Don't just take my word for it. Try to find an authentic chinese chef who agrees that wontons and dumplings are interchangeable in our culture.

                        1. re: TomatoSaw

                          In many parts of China, the terms are much looser than Cantonese. That is because in most of China, the distinctions (in preparation, ingredients and in creation) are not hugely different.

                          In many other regions, the main difference is the thickness of the warps.

                          Take Shanghai 上海 for example.

                          This is a photo of Shanghai wonton 馄饨:


                          This is a photo of Shanghai dumplings 餃子:


                          Huebi 湖北 same thing. In Huebi, the terms are interchangeable.

                          The important thing is that wonton is a specific kind of dumpling. So if you ask for dumplings, and someone gives you wonton. Most people won't make a fuss like you have suggested.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            I was raised by my grandfather who cooked in Beijing and Guangzhou but also traveled to many regions of China to learn his craft. He would turn over in his grave if I said dumplings and wontons were the same. I've also never been anywhere in China where I was served wontons when asked for dumplings or the other way around. I don't know how to resolve this discussion with you. We can agree to disagree. Perhaps we are miscommunicating in some way or our perspectives are just different.

                            1. re: TomatoSaw

                              <He would turn over in his grave if I said dumplings and wontons were the same. >

                              Well, I am sure many people's grandfathers will turn over in their graves for all sort of reasons like: (1) most wonton wrapper these days are made by machine, (2) people often do not use Buddha fruit to make the Cantonese wonton broth, or (3) marriage can be defined beyond just between a man and a woman.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                You're right. To hell with my grandfather. To hell with all grandfathers. They were wrong on some things. That must mean they are wrong on all things and their opinions are moot.

                                1. re: TomatoSaw

                                  <To hell with my grandfather. To hell with all grandfathers. >

                                  Maybe you don't get it.

                                  My point is that your grandfather is not any more special than someone else grandfathers. Everyone has grandfathers. The whole point of "My grandfather told me this...." does not have a lot of weight.

                      2. re: TomatoSaw

                        So please tell us the difference between the two, in your opinion.

                        1. re: Steve

                          Dumplings have a thicker skin that is made from flour and water. They can be pan fried, steamed, or boiled and are eaten with Chinese vinegar dip or soy sauce or chili sauce. Wontons have a much thinner skin that is made with flour, water, egg, and salt. They're usually smaller in size and served in broth. The most common filling used in wontons are ground pork and shrimp (along with other seasonings) while there is a great variety of fillings for dumplings depending on the region.

                          1. re: TomatoSaw

                            <Wontons have a much thinner skin that is made with flour, water, egg, and salt.>

                            Only Cantonese wonton wrapper are made with egg. Most do not.

                            <The most common filling used in wontons are ground pork and shrimp>

                            Only if you are talking about Cantonese wontons. Many wonton in other regions, shrimp is often not used. Usually, the main ingredients are vegetables and pork (sometime chicken) for other regions, whereas Cantonese wontons main essential ingredients are: shrimp, pork, fried flatfish, and usually without much vegetable. Fried flatfish is a must for Cantonese wonton, but it never appears in other regional wonton.


                            There is nothing wrong with your definition. It is just that your listed definition is looking through the lens of Cantonese wonton.

                            Just to clarify, Cantonese wonton does not use *ground* pork. The pork must be chopped/diced, but not ground. I know you probably don't really mean ground pork and it was a quick typo. I do that all the time too. I am just clarifying for other readers. The same criteria for Cantonese shumai (Cantonese pork dumplings) too. Pork meat is diced, but not ground.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              It's not only Cantonese cuisine that this applies to. But think whatever you want because I'm done talking about this. It's pointless to argue back and forth.

                                1. re: TomatoSaw

                                  <It's not only Cantonese cuisine that this applies to.>

                                  Well, apparently, a lot of the things you said are wrong for other regional wonton, like: "wonton skin has egg", and that "wonton uses shrimps for filling". These are most certainly not true for many regional wonton. Look up some recipes before you insist these things apply outside of Cantonese cuisine. Here are three recipes for Shanghai wonton. See any shrimps there? Because I don't.




                                  <I'm done talking about this.>

                                  Of course you are done talking... because you don't seem to understand wonton (Cantonese or not).

                                  <it's pointless to argue back and forth.>

                                  By the way, you are the one who started this. You just wished that everyone would have worshiped and agreed with you. I am sorry that things didn't work out the way you wanted them to be. I am sorry that people actually wrote back and disagreed with you, and I am sorry that you find it pointless to go "back and forth".

                                  Look, I am not trying to be mean, but you need to understand that you started this, and people have the right to disagree.

                              1. re: TomatoSaw

                                ah, i agree with this. i think you flipped it around in the post i replied to earlier.

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

                          5 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.

                              1. re: scoopG

                                餛飩 húndun = Wonton
                                饺子 jiaozi = dumpling

                                Not the same thing. Not the same thing. Not the same thing.

                                1. re: TomatoSaw

                                  See CK's post above:

                                  For Cantonese, the two things are not interchangeable, and they are exclusive from each others. In other regions, the two terms can be interchanged.

                                  1. re: scoopG

                                    If you go to China and serve people dumplings when you promised them wontons, they will correct you. And vice versa. Maybe I have the wrong information. If that's the case, it would be easy to find an authentic chinese chef who agrees that dumplings and wontons are the same and interchangeable.

                            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.