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dumplings, wontons and noodles


eatingwitheddie
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Are potstickers a form of a wonton or a dumpling? Or is just a potsticker? What are the differences?

Dumplings are actually just a generic word to referring to small mounds of dough stuffed with ingredients such as pork, shrimp, vegetables, etc. Dumplings refer to won tons, potstickers, siu mai, har gow, etc. Similarly, pasta is a generic word referring to farfalle, linguine, capellini, etc.

Pot stickers are a specific type of dumpling that usually has a thicker skin (dough) than won ton. Pot stickers are stuffed with mostly pork and a little bit of vegetables such as cabbage or chives or leeks. These are then pan fried & steamed(braised), with oil and just a bit of water skimming the bottom of the pan. I believe pot stickers originated in Northern Chinese cuisine, where as won ton is a Cantonese invention.

Won tons, normally have a thinner skin stuffed with pork, shrimp, chives, soy sauce, egg (as a binding ingredient) and whatever else the cook desires). The traditional won ton is served with won ton egg noodles in steaming hot broth as a hearty breakfast or lunch meal. Americanized versions of won ton are miniscule portions of its real glory, deep fried, and sometimes even served with sweet and sour sauce.

I personally prefer won ton the traditional way where it is boiled and served with a big bowl of egg noodles and hot broth. I love it with a dollop of hot chili sauce.

I fold my won tons in the shape of rose buds. It's a little bit more effort, but comes out so beautifully. I like adding chives or green onions, lean ground pork, shrimp, soy sauce, egg and dried reconstituted mushrooms. The mushrooms provide an earthy dimension to the dumpling.

I have also had won ton where dried fish is added. It's a special type of dried fish available in asian markets. I don't know the name of it, but the cook first chars the dried fish in the oven or on the grill, and then grinds it down to small flakes. This is an extra step, but well worh the effort because it gives the won ton a subtle smoky flavour and somewhat crunchy texture.

Edited by cwyc (log)
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I've never made wontons because...I don't know why, really. I have honed my jiaozi-making skills in the past few years however, and have arrived at a recipe for a shrimp/chive meat filling I'm satisfied with. By way of background, I should mention that jiaozi is the Mandarin term for northern-style dumplings that cwyc describes, and in particular, refer to the boiled/steamed variety.

I do adore, wontons in soup, although I find the thin yellow cantonese noodles tend to agglomerate into a single tangled mass, at least at the local bbq shop I frequent. Yech. It's like biting into a rubber band ball.

I do have some questions for the wonton gurus out there -- can you make them in advance and freeze them like jiaozi? Do they hold up well?

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can you make them in advance and freeze them like jiaozi? Do they hold up well?

Won tons freeze beautifully. I usually make a huge batch in one sitting numbering in the hundreds. I freeze them up in plastic freezer bags by placing them in neat little rows. You have to be careful about not throwing them all in together, otherwise they will stick together en masse. They make a great meal when you're pressed for time. They require no defrosting because you can just throw them in boiling water or broth. It takes only minutes for it to cook.

I do adore, wontons in soup, although I find the thin yellow cantonese noodles tend to agglomerate into a single tangled mass, at least at the local bbq shop I frequent. Yech. It's like biting into a rubber band ball.

My personal preference is flat rice noodles, although won tons are traditionally served with the egg noodles you refer to. But when egg noodles are prepared fresh (not the dried variety), you can just taste the amazing flavours of the noodle. Maybe your local bbq shop doesn't use fresh noodles. It really does make a difference.

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I do have some questions for the wonton gurus out there -- can you make them in advance and freeze them like jiaozi?  Do they hold up well?

My wife freezes them all the time. She spreads them out on cookie sheets to freeze separately, then bags them after they are frozen. I don't know how long they hold up well -- they never sit in the freezer for long at our house!

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I believe pot stickers originated in Northern Chinese cuisine, where as won ton is a Cantonese invention.

I think wontons are also ultimately Northern in origin (the wrappers are wheat-based, after all). I've read that they have traditionally been eaten at the Winter Solstice since the days of the Han Dynasty in Beijing. The yellow wonton skins may be Cantonese, though, since the Cantonese apparently have more of a penchant for adding eggs to noodle batter. The Cantonese may also have influenced wonton-making by being more creative in the use of fillings. According to some accounts, "hundun" and "jiaozi" were originally two names for the same dumpling, which evolved in shape (and appropriate wrapper thickness) into two distinctly different forms, but with the same type of filling.

In Shanghai, they make a distinction betweeen "small" wontons and "big" wontons. The "xiao hundun" are always filled with a dab of jiaozi-like pork and cabbage filling, and are formed quickly by placing the wrapper in the palm of the hand and making a fist, like crumpling a sheet of paper. These are a popular breakfast item. The "da hundun" are the more familiar carefully folded wontons whose filling is subject to the cook's creativity.

You guys are making me hungry!

hundun.jpg

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This post has made me both hungry and nostalgic! I have very clear memories of standing next to my mom as she made wontons at the kitchen counter. She made very simple (but yummy) ones of ground pork and spinach with an egg or two thrown in to hold everything together. When I was younger, she let me wet the edge of the wrappers and pinch them together. I love the smell of raw wonton wrappers!

In college, I called my mom for her recipe and made about a month's worth of wontons. To echo what past posters have said, wontons freeze very well. And they're relatively easy to make (heck, if I can do 'em, anyone can).

If you have leftover wonton skins, they make fun snacks. I like to cut them into triangles and bake them, either with sesame seeds or with cinnamon and sugar.

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I prefer my wontons Sichuan-style --- stuffed with just a dab of ground pork and bathed in a fiery sauce of chili oil, soy, sugar. They're called "dumplings" (hong you jiaozi --- red oil dumplings) but the thinner skin and smaller size remind me more of wonton. They certainly couldn't be confused with the rounded pork-and-garlic-chive-stuffed "shui jiao".

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I do adore, wontons in soup, although I find the thin yellow cantonese noodles tend to agglomerate into a single tangled mass, at least at the local bbq shop I frequent.  Yech.  It's like biting into a rubber band ball.

that means the noodle guy in front probably leaves them cooking them too long.

find another shop.

Herb aka "herbacidal"

Tom is not my friend.

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i saw a fusion type of wantan once. filling was ice-cream and it was deep fried! looks extremely interesting.

In the US we have something called "Crab Rangoon." It was invented a long time ago by "Trader" Vic Bergeron, the guy who also invented the Mai Tai cocktail, and launched a chain of "Trader Vic's" restaurants that circles the globe. It's basically crab and cream cheese in a deep-fried wonton. It's been around so long that many people think it's Chinese, and it can be found on the menus of many cheap neighborhood American-Chinese restaurants. (They usually use imitation crab.)

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And regarding dumplings, there are what I call the "soupy " ones, and the "meatier" ones...are there more precise descriptive names for these? Also, are the same wheat based wrappers used?

I think the soupy ones you are referring to are the ones similar to won tons. There are many, many variations of the soupy-type dumplings, each with different names. As for the meatier ones, they do have a thicker skin for the purposes of pan frying it. Normally, if you go into an asian store, check the refrigerated section and you will see the many different types of wrappers available.

I love the smell of raw wonton wrappers!

So do I!

In the US we have something called "Crab Rangoon." It was invented a long time ago by "Trader" Vic Bergeron, the guy who also invented the Mai Tai cocktail, and launched a chain of "Trader Vic's" restaurants that circles the globe. It's basically crab and cream cheese in a deep-fried wonton. It's been around so long that many people think it's Chinese, and it can be found on the menus of many cheap neighborhood American-Chinese restaurants. (They usually use imitation crab.)

That's an interesting bit of trivia. I did not know that. I was under the impression crab rangoons were an Asian invention from the Caribbean - a fusion, if you will.

Another bit of trivia: won ton in Cantonese is literally translated as cloud swallow. Notice how wontons float in the broth like clouds? The clouds are to be swallowed or slurped!

Edited by cwyc (log)
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Titus: would you mind sharing your recipe with me?

Not at all.

2 lbs. ground pork

1 lb. shrimp, shelled, deveined and coarsely chopped, heads reserved (opt.)

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 tb. chives, minced (European as opposed to Asian garlic chives)

2 scallions, minced

1 tb. cilantro, minced (opt.)

2 tb. sesame oil

1 tp. ground white pepper

3 tb. light soy

2 tb. rice wine or sherry

4 slices ginger, minced

Makes about 40-50 jiaozi, so buy an equivalent number of wrappers.

Edit 9/4: Oops, forgot to mention that tablespoons (tb.) here are actually asian soup spoons, which I use to develop a recipe. Sorry.

This is what I use for potstickers. I'm a little embarassed to admit that I reserve the shrimp heads, squeeze them, and return the brain matter to the meat filling. It's a practice I copied from my cantonese grandma. As we all know, grandmas (cantonese or otherwise) are the wellsprings of culinary wisdom in any culture. I've never seen this trick published elsewhere and have no idea how sanitary it is, though I imagine it is no more nor less sanitary than using the rest of the shrimp in the first place. Perhaps someone can chime in with an opinion and confirm whether or not this is a widespread practice, or if I'm being a more than a little weird.

At any rate, it lends an orange hue to the meat filling and tons of flavor. I've also decided in favor of european chives as opposed to garlic chives in this recipe, as I find the former to slightly more piquant. Hopefully, this recipe can be used for wontons as well, and I welcome any suggestions eGulleteers may proffer.

Edited by titus wong (log)
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But when egg noodles are prepared fresh (not the dried variety), you can just taste the amazing flavours of the noodle.  Maybe your local bbq shop doesn't use fresh noodles.  It really does make a difference.

You know, I don't think it has so much to do with fresh or dried noodles as it does with how thin the noodles actually are. Fresh egg noodles are commonly available at all my local asian greengrocers and are sold in the refrigerated section. They're very cheap at $1 per pound. Since I live in the same Vietnamese/Chiu Chow neighborhood with the bbq shops I frequent, I'm pretty sure they're using the same fresh noodles I do.

I've had the same problem with some very thin dried buckwheat noodles I bought recently. I cooked an individual 4 oz. serving in a 3 qt. sauce pan filled with water and they invariably become entangled together. Very frustrating. Maybe next time, I'll try cooking them with in a 5 qt. sauce pan with a tablespoon of cooking oil.

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Titus: I will get the recipe to you shortly.

As for why your noodles are sticking together...I thought about it some more, and you are right - I don't think it has anything to do with either fresh or dried. Both are good in their own way, but the problem of sticking together, I believe has to do with the fact that they need to be swished around in the boiling water vigorously. I am assuming you understand Cantonese? You need to "chauk" it vigorously. I do not think oil will help matters. I have tried that with pasta and as we all know, oil and water do not mix. It just makes the entire thing slick and greasy.

I think you might be right about using a bigger pot to boil the noodles. My guess is that your local bbq shop, in its frenetic and routine pace just throws the whole slab of noodles in the boiling water and does not swill (chauk) it around vigorously and use a chopstick to separate and move things around. That's my guess, anyways.

Edited by cwyc (log)
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that means the noodle guy in front probably leaves them cooking them too long.

Well, actually they're a little too chewy for my taste, so if anything, I think they're underdone. Is there anyone else who has the same problem with fresh egg noodles?

find another shop.

Yeah, but their wontons really rock; easily the best in the neighborhood. When I place an order, I can see them making them fresh, i.e. they retrieve a tub of wonton filling from the refrigerator, slap a dab on a wonton skin, pinch it closed, and drop it into boiling water. The wontons are good, the broth is good, but the noodles are sub par, which is why I've taken to ordering wonton soup only. *Sigh*

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When I place an order, I can see them making them fresh, i.e. they retrieve a tub of wonton filling from the refrigerator, slap a dab on a wonton skin, pinch it closed, and drop it into boiling water.

I'm intrigued. Can you describe what might be in it? How does it taste?

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Oh gosh, I made a lot of won tons in college. My roommate and I invariable modified the innards to suit our mood and level of laziness. Our simpliest won ton recipe consisted of seasoned ground beef and mushrooms, though when we were more ambitious we actually added shrimp as well. No matter how lazy we got, though, I always insisted on folding them the "proper" way to form, as Cwyc put it, rosebuds or, as I thought of them, nurse's hats.

I dislike rice noodles with won tons (though flat rice noodles are my noodle of choice under any other circumstance) because I find that the wrapper and the noodles just taste too much alike.

I'm a little embarassed to admit that I reserve the shrimp heads, squeeze them, and return the brain matter to the meat filling.

I've never heard of anyone doing that, but it's sounds good! I'll have to try it next time.

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I'm not a big fan of using beef in dumplings because it doesn't give the same texture or taste as pork. Pork is smooth. I find beef, especially if boiled, makes the dumpling dry and chewy. But there are so many different ways of making dumplings. It's kind of like the million ways of making a seafood jambalaya or gumbo. Every home has their own best recipe.

Nurse's hats are a perfect description of won tons.

Edited by cwyc (log)
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I prefer my wontons Sichuan-style --- stuffed with just a dab of ground pork and bathed in a fiery sauce of chili oil, soy, sugar. They're called "dumplings" (hong you jiaozi --- red oil dumplings) but the thinner skin and smaller size remind me more of wonton. They certainly couldn't be confused with the rounded pork-and-garlic-chive-stuffed "shui jiao".

Your post brought up some welcome childhood memories for me. As a child, I would compete with my father and brother in hong you shui jiao eating contests. There was a restaurant called Tung Shing Lo in Flushing, Queens that made a good version (at least my shanghainese dad grudgingly conceded it to be so). Anyway, the idea was to eat as many bowls as you could before fainting from the heat or failing that, saying uncle. Brows awash in perspiration, our mouths aflame with chili, we gulped down as many of the savory, fiery dumplings we could. My father would usually win and with a satisfied smirk on his face, drive his children home in the family Buick, as they were prostrated by tummyaches. Good times...

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