The English name “wonton” can be written in Chinese either as “húndùn” the usual northern Chinese name meaning roughly “irregularly shaped pasta”, or the more poetic “yúntūn”a popular Cantonese homonym that literally means “swallowing clouds”. In Sichuan, wonton are known as “chāo shǒu” and often served in a sesame paste and chili oil sauce as a dish called “red oil wonton”.
A wonton is made with a thin ten centimeter square lye-water pastry wrapper made of wheat flour, water, salt, and lye, and filled with savory minced meat. The filling is typically made of minced pork, coarsely diced shrimp, finely minced ginger, finely minced onions, sesame oil and soy sauce. Wontons can be served in soup or deep fried. Although commonly referred to as “dumplings”, wontons are filled pasta similar to Italian tortellini or ravioli or Jewish kreplach. The thin wonton wrapper gives boiled wontons a texture similar to small meatballs.
Dumplings may be any of a wide variety of dishes, both sweet and savory, in several different cuisines. They are either made from balls of dough or are small parcels of food encased in pastry, dough, batter, or leaves.
The jiaozi is a Chinese dumpling which consists of minced meat and chopped vegetables wrapped into a piece of dough. Popular meat fillings include ground pork, ground beef, ground chicken, ground lamb, shrimp, and even fish. Popular mixings are pork with Chinese cabbage, lamb with spring onion, leeks with eggs, etc. Jiaozi are usually boiled or steamed. Jiaozi is a traditional dish for Chinese New Year’s Eve. Family members would get together to make dumplings.
If they are shallow fried, they are called guotie or potstickers. Compared to wontons (dumplings served boiled in a soup), jiaozi have a thicker skin and are longer. Also jiaozi has different wrappings and ways to wrap.
Chinese cuisine includes sweet dumplings. Also commonly found are tangyuan. These are smaller dumplings made with glutinous rice flour and filled with very sweet sesame, peanut or red bean paste. There are also other kinds of dumplings such as Har Kao, Siew Mai, Small Cage-Steamed Bun, Pork Bun and Crystal Dumpling.
Wontons and dumplings use two very different style of wrappers and very different style of wrapping. 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. The basic difference between a dumpling and a wonton is that a wonton is always filled.
To summarize, the difference between Dumplings and Wontons are:
- The wrapper of dumplings is thicker than the wrapper of wontons.
- The word wonton is Romanization of the Cantonese word hundun which literally means dumpling.
- Chinese cuisines have many different types of dumplings and wonton is just one of them.
- Wontons are always filled with meats whereas generic dumplings across the world can be eaten without a filling.
The very best Wonton Soup that we have found so far our Quest was the “House Special Wonton Soup” served at The Orient, in Bethpage, NY. Or, as we share in a recipe a few months ago, you can make your own Wonton Soup too!
Which Chinese restaurant serves YOUR favorite bowl of wonton soup?
Humbly submitted for your consumption,
—Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”)