When it comes to differentiating between wontons and dumplings, many people will tell you that there is no difference – since wontons are a kind of dumpling.
While this is partially true, there are still certain areas in which wontons and dumplings differ, and if you’re a fan of Chinese cuisine – we’re sure you’d like to know how to tell them apart.
The main difference between wontons and dumplings is that wontons always have to have some fillings, while dumplings can be empty.
Also, stuffing for wontons is mostly based on some kind of meat. Keep on reading to discover more differences.
What are wontons?
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Let’s start off by saying that wontons (also known as won tons, or wantan) are indeed a kind of Chinese dumplings. They are made by stuffing the wonton wrapper with the desired filling and molding the wonton into the desired shape.
When making wontons, one of the most important steps is sealing the wonton wrapper so that the stuffing remains intact and doesn’t seep out of the wonton.
The best way to properly close wontons is by moistening the wrapper edges with some water until it becomes sticky, then making sure it is sealed all around.
Also, when closing the wontons, it is recommended to squeeze the air out. In case you skip this step, the air trapped inside the wonton may cause the wrapper to break.
While there are numerous variations in how you can stuff and shape your wontons, you can also use different cooking techniques.
Wontons can be steamed, boiled, served in a plate of soup, but the most popular kind seems to be fried wonton.
When it comes to frying, you can choose to either deep-fry them for a crispy, golden layer all over or just pan-fry them to get a crispy bottom.
How to make wontons?
Wontons are usually shaped into triangles, but as long as they’re tightly sealed, you can experiment with molding them any way you see fit.
An eye-catching method of assembling your wontons is closing them, then folding all four corners, as this is the most common way wontons are molded for a soup.
If you’re in a hurry and you want to make sure they’re properly closed, you can just pinch all four sides of the wonton wrapper together towards the middle.
As far as the filling is concerned, the options are pretty much endless. The most common wonton stuffing includes minced pork and shrimp – especially if they’re served in a soup.
Popular Shanghai wontons are filled with their traditional bok choy and minced meat, usually served in a pot of chicken soup.
If they’re not added to a plate of soup, wontons are mostly served with different kinds of dips and condiments – usually soy sauce, sesame oil, chili oil sauce, or sesame paste.
There is no universal recipe for wontons, as they allow you to experiment with different shapes and flavors.
However, as we’ve mentioned before, it is important to note that wontons always have some kind of filling.
What are dumplings?
Since wontons are considered to be a kind of dumpling, it is already easy to imagine what a dumpling looks and tastes like.
Dumplings are indeed a very broad category and you will come across various shapes, sizes, and flavors of dumplings in different Asian restaurants.
It all starts with a thin dough wrapper that can be filled with both sweet and savory filling. However, dumplings can also be prepared and served without a filling.
The dumpling dough recipe is something the majority of cooks choose not to experiment with, as it is very simple. All that is required for this kind of dough is flour, water, and salt.
However, when it comes to flour choice, you can choose between plain, all-purpose flour, and a mixture of tapioca starch and wheat starch, used for traditional Har Gau shrimp-stuffed dumplings.
Many people categorize dumplings according to the type of wrapper used, as there are wonton, gyoza, and regular dumpling wrappers available.
The best thing about dumpling wrappers is that you don’t have to bother with making them from scratch, as pre-made ones ready for stuffing are widely available in stores.
As far as the preparation is concerned, the same cooking methods we mentioned for preparing wontons can be used for all kinds of dumplings.
While a crispy fried dumpling seems to be the most popular, dumplings can also be steamed, boiled, and served with soup or different kinds of sauces, dips, and condiments.
How to make dumplings?
One of the most popular, yet easiest ways of preparing dumplings at home is pan-frying them. Place the dumplings onto a heated pan and allow the bottom part to get nice and crispy.
Once the bottom part of the dumpling is pan-fried, all you need to do is add a little bit of water and close the lid. The steam allows the rest of the dumpling to get cooked, while the bottom part remains crispy and golden.
When it comes to dumpling filling, there is no limit to its options, since the dough is completely neutral and it allows you to experiment with all kinds of flavors.
The base of pretty much every popular savory dumpling is a type of meat filling – usually minced pork and shrimp, but you can also incorporate beef, chicken, or lamb.
And in case you’re not a fan of meat stuffing, or you simply don’t eat meat, you can always just stick to veggie filling.
One of the most popular meat-free dumpling stuffing options is a mixture of spinach and ricotta cheese.
As for the sweet alternatives, the possibilities are endless as well, but most recipes consist of filling the dumpling dough with the fruit of choice.
What are the differences between wontons and dumplings?
When comparing wontons and dumplings, you’ll notice that there are certainly more similarities than differences.
Wontons are, in fact, a type of dumplings, so it’s no wonder we can draw many parallels between the two. However, there are also some significant differences you should be aware of.
As we’ve mentioned, the method of folding wontons and dumplings is completely up to you, and you will certainly come across many variations in different restaurants.
However, the shape of the wrapper itself is pretty much the same for all variations, and it is the main difference between dumplings and wonton.
The easiest way to distinguish between the two is by remembering that dumplings are usually round, while wontons can have a square, triangular, or rectangle shape.
Of course, these shapes won’t be as noticeable once the wonton or the dumpling has been folded and closed, but it is something you will notice in the store, shopping for these pre-made wrappers.
It is also an important piece of information if you’re making the wrappers from scratch, and you want to achieve a certain shape from the original wonton/dumpling recipes.
The filling you use for either wontons or dumplings is completely up to you, and we cannot say there are any rules or regulations when it comes to this step.
However, an important difference to remember is that the inside of a dumpling can often be left empty – especially if they’re served as a side dish or a complementary element in soups.
Wontons, on the other hand, are always stuffed, and many recipes will require a rich, well-seasoned stuffing. The stuffing usually consists of a veggie mixture, seafood, and/or pork.
3. Dipping sauce
Once again, we cannot say there is a universal rule when it comes to serving your wontons or dumplings with a particular sauce or dip.
However, dumplings, and especially steamed dumplings, usually require an aromatic dip or sauce as their stuffing isn’t as seasoned, and they tend to have a milder flavor profile.
Wontons, on the other hand, are usually stuffed with a well-seasoned mixture, which means you can serve them without a side of dip or sauce, but you can definitely add some if you want.
Being that a wonton is a dumpling variety, it is clear that dumplings come in many shapes and forms.
It is nearly impossible to name and list every single dumpling type, but the most common varieties include:
- Shui Jiao (boiled and meat-based)
- Xiao Long Bao (dim sum, originating from Shanghai)
- Guo Tie (potstickers)
- Mandu (Korean)
- Gyoza (Japanese potsticker)
As far as wontons are concerned, they can also include different kinds of stuffing and be folded in all kinds of shapes, but there are no actual varieties of wontons.
5. Wrapper thickness
If you prefer a thicker dough, you may not be as fond of wontons, as their wrappers are generally thinner than the regular dumpling wrappers.
Most dumplings have a thicker wrapper – especially if they include no stuffing.
Wonton vs dumpling: are they the same?
Being that wontons are dumplings, when it comes to categorization, they are the same concept. However, there are some important differences between wontons and other dumpling types.
First and foremost, wontons usually have a thinner, square wrapper, and they are always stuffed. Dumplings, on the other hand, can be served empty, and their wrappers are mostly round and thick.
When it comes to the stuffing, wontons usually have minced pork and shrimp filling, and the stuffing is heavily seasoned, which is why they can be served without any dips or sauces.
Dumplings, on the other hand, are usually not as seasoned, and they usually come with a side of savory, umami dip or sauce – especially if they have no filling.
It is also important to mention that there are countless varieties of dumplings, depending on the country of origin, as well as stuffing and shape.
While wontons can also come in different shapes and with all kinds of stuffing, there are no varieties of wontons – they’re just one broad subcategory of dumplings.
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