There’s a rather wide misconception among Westerners that all Chinese dumplings are the same based on their looks. This could not be farther from the truth. There can be multiple names for Chinese dim sum: their Cantonese name, Szechuan name, and even the romanized or pinyin name. If you think that’s rather dizzying in itself, get ready for this: every name has the possibility of being spelled differently. Yes, this is all for a single dumpling.
Are there really that many Chinese dumplings out there?
On a very general level, there are two broad categories when it comes to the conversation of Chinese dumplings. The first one is bao, which are dumplings that are shaped like purses and quite round. The second one is gao, which are dumplings that are shaped like a crescent.
There are a plethora of subcategories under both bao and gao. To begin with, not all wrappers of dim sum are the same. The most common ones are made of rice or wheat, but there are other kinds!
Filling varies as well, and there are also different styles of cooking dumplings: fried, steamed, or boiled.
What are the most common Chinese dumpling types available in the market?
- Xiao Long Bao
These round, thick dumplings are also known as “soup dumplings.” Their wrapper is usually wheat and crimped at the top. While the moniker has the word soup in it, that’s not necessarily what’s in it. There’s chopped cooked pork or crab, alongside pork trimmings rich in collagen. During the steaming process, the collagen becomes liquefied, creating a savory, rich broth.
- Siu Mai
Pronounced as “shoo-my,” this dumpling is shaped like a round basket and has an open top. It has a thin wheat dough wrapper. Like many other Chinese dumplings, there are many different takes on siu mai across the entirety of China and even other Asian countries. However, in the traditional Cantonese sense, siu mai is made with shrimp and ground pork mixed with green onions, ginger, mushrooms, and similar ingredients.
The usual characteristic of siu mai is an orange dot. This is typically made with the use of a carrot or fish roe. Sometimes, it’s a green dot, which stems from a pea. Usual siu mai preparation is through the use of a steamer basket made with bamboo.
Pronounced as “jow-zee,” these are arguably the most typical Chinese dumplings out there. The opaque wrappers are made with wheat dough. The filling of this crescent dumpling is typically a mix of cabbage, scallions, and ground pork. The dipping sauce it’s served with is made of vinegar, sesame oil, and soy sauce.
Jiaozi is more generic than most other terms. Pan-fried, it’s referred to as jian jiao or guo tie. Most Westerners also refer to this as potstickers. When it’s boiled, the term for reference becomes zheng jiao. Shui jiao is what’s used for when it’s boiled.
Contrary to popular belief, Chinese dumplings are not all the same. There are two categories at the very basic core, but those are extremely general and wide: bao and gao. Some of the most common Chinese dumpling types are xiao long bao, siu mai, and jiaozi.
Looking for the best Chinese dim sum delivery in Houston? Check out Ocean Palace Restaurant! We’ve been in the heart of Chinatown at the Hong Kong City Mall since 1999, serving Chinese seafood and dim sum.