Chinese dim sum is a universe its own: there are a large range of beatiful, small dishes for brunch that can take you many times to try them all. However, after trying a lot of dim sum’s dishes, I realize there are 3 popular types I’m confused the most: wonton, har gao, and jiaozi. The reason lies at the similarities in the wrappers or the fillings between them. Let’s discover what they are and how to distinguish wonton, har gao and jiaozi.
Wontons originated in China and are particularly popular in southern China, such as Guangdong and Hong Kong. Following in the footsteps of the Chinese, wonton also became very popular in neighboring countries such as Vietnam, Singapore or Malaysia. To differentiate wonton from other types of dim sum, we should learn a little bit about its wrapper and filling:
- Wrapper: Wontons feature a simple yet distinctive square-shaped wrapper. These wrappers are thin and made from a mixture of wheat flour, egg and water, giving them a slight yellowish hue. In general, wonton’s wrapper has square shape and contains wheat flour & egg.
- Filling: The filling inside a wonton can vary, but the classic combination includes ground meat, such as pork or shrimp, mixed with seasonings like garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. Usually, the filling of wonton doesn’t include vegetables like napa cabbage, but there are some variations with vegetables inside.
- Cooking method: Boiling, steaming, or deep-frying are three cooking methods of wonton. Generally they are served in a clear broth as part of a comforting wonton soup or enjoyed with a dipping sauce.
In summary, to be called wontons, the dumpling should have a square wrapper made from egg, wheat flour and water, and a filling typically made from ground meat and shrimp. It can be boiled, steamed for deep-fried.
Har Gow (also Gar Gao or Ha Gao) is a common type of Cantonese dim sum, originating from the Guangdong region of China. Below are the characteristics of a har gow:
- Wrapper: It has a translucent and delicate wrapper. These wrappers are extremely thin and usually made from a blend of wheat starch and tapioca starch. Therefore, they appear in white color, nearly see-through and has a slight chewiness thanks to tapioca starch.
- Filling: Har Gao usually has a distinctive shrimp filling. The shrimp is typically seasoned with ingredients like ginger, sesame oil, and white pepper, resulting in a flavorful and aromatic interior. However, nowadays, there are also many variations of har gow fillings with ground pork/beef.
- Cooking method: To preserve its unique appearance and texture, Har Gao is always steamed. This cooking method ensures that the dumpling wrapper remains translucent, revealing the succulent shrimp filling within. Har Gao is often served with a soy-based dipping sauce to enhance its delicate flavor.
In summary, to distinguish har gow from other dumplings, remember its unique features: translucent, see-through wrapper, usually shrimp filling, and steam method.
People believe that Jiaozi, one of the most popular Chinese dumplings over the world, originates in Northern China. Nowadays, it is a common dishes throughout the world, especially in Asian countries like Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. It includes:
- Wrapper: It has a moderately thick and round-shaped wrapper. These wrappers are made from wheat flour and water, with or without egg, giving them a sturdy and chewy texture. They are typically white, sometimes yellow if egg is included. It’s usually bigger than wonton’s wrapper in size.
- Filling: Jiaozi fillings are highly customizable and can include a wide range of ingredients. Commonly, they consist of ground meat such as pork, chicken, or beef, combined with vegetables and seasonings like garlic, ginger, and soy sauce. The filling’s diversity allows for a variety of flavors and textures. So, a filling of jiaozi is usually a combination of meat and vegetables.
- Cooking method: Similar to Wonton, three cooking methods for jiaozi are pan-frying, boiling, or steaming. Pan-fried jiaozi are often called potstickers, and they develop a crispy bottom while maintaining a tender interior. Boiled jiaozi are soft and comforting, while steamed jiaozi have a lighter and healthier appeal. They are typically served with a dipping sauce, often a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar.
In summary, a dumpling is called jiaozi when it includes a round wrapper made from egg & wheat flour like wonton, a filling mixing meat and vegetable. There are various ways to cooking it, from pan-frying to boiling and steaming.
Differences between Wonton, Har Gow and Jiaozi
Take a look on the table below:
|Types of dumplings||Wonton||Har Gow||Jiaozi|
|Wrapper||– Square shape|
– Includes wheat flour, egg and water
|– Round shape|
– Includes wheat starch, tapioca starch
– White, translucent
|– Round shape|
– Includes wheat flour, egg (optional) and water
– Yellow or white
|Filling||– Typically ground pork or ground pork & shrimp||– Typically shrimp||– Typically meat (pork, beef, shrimp) and vegetables (napa cabbage, etc.)|
|Cooking Method||– Boil, Steam, Deep-Fry||– Steam||– Boil, Steam, Pan-Fry, Deep-Fry|
|Serving as a Soup||– Yes||– No||– Yes|
After reading this post, I believe you’ll not confuse between them any more!