East Asian cuisine has long been a favourite choice for diners worldwide. Moreover, the recent surge of K-pop and anime in mainstream media has further propelled the influence of Asian culture across the globe, extending to music, animation, and mouthwatering dishes. As a result, people's interest in Asian food has grown exponentially.
Dumplings and wontons are two such popular varieties of dishes, known for their exceptional flavours, nutritional value, and filling nature. Though they may appear confusingly similar and share many properties, dumplings and wontons are distinct culinary creations. In this article, we will delve into their similarities and differences to unravel the delicious mystery behind these beloved dishes.
What are dumplings?
In ancient times, the origins of dumplings can be traced back to China, specifically during the Han dynasty. Over the centuries, these delicious treats have evolved into a fundamental aspect of Chinese cuisine. Dumplings, essentially made from various types of dough like potato flour, wheat flour, or rice flour, may or may not have flavorful fillings within their folds.
The versatility and popularity of dumplings have made them a cherished culinary tradition in Chinese culture. The wrapper of dumplings can be filled with both sweet and spicy fillings. You can use different types of meat, vegetables, sweets, etc as your filling if you choose to have fillings.
When it comes to cooking, dumplings offer a variety of delicious options. They can be steamed, boiled, or even fried to perfection. Steamed dumplings are moist, soft, and tender to eat and are considered to be the healthier option. Boiled dumplings are perfect for providing comfort and a hearty feel on rainy days. On the other hand, you can even fry up your dumplings to have a more indulgent experience.
What are wontons?
Well, it is safe to start with the fact that, wontons are indeed a kind of Chinese dumpling. This is why people often get confused between the two. Originally, the word cluster “Wàhn tān” means “cloud” in Cantonese. According to some critics, the name comes from their cloudlike shapes. The origin of wontons can be traced back to 1644 during the Qing Dynasty.
Wontons, though originally enjoyed by only upper-class people, became popular among all after the Second World War. The biggest identifying feature of wontons is that they definitely contain filling inside the wrap. These fillings are commonly made with minced beef or pork.
The wrapper of wonton is also thin and square in shape. They can be cooked in various ways but deep fried wontons are the most famous. Moreover, they are also popular in other Asian cuisines, such as Thai and Vietnamese, where they might be prepared with slightly different ingredients or cooking methods.
What are the similarities between dumplings and wontons?
As wontons are a subset of dumplings, there are definitely some similarities between the two. The two are similar in appearance, cooking options, versatility, and ability to soothe among other things.
First of all, both dumplings and wontons are little pockets of dough, sometimes filled with fillings. This common feature gives the two a similar appearance.
Secondly, both dumplings and wontons can be cooked in many versatile ways. They can both be boiled, steamed, or fried in order to be eaten, though dumplings are typically steamed more often, while wontons are commonly fried as a cooking method of preference.
Again, both dumplings and wontons are incredibly versatile along with being great comfort food. You can adapt both to suit different tastes and preferences by customizing the fillings with various ingredients. By doing so you will be able to create a wide range of flavours.
Beyond their adaptability, dumplings and wontons also make for excellent comfort food. If you combine the two with hot soups, you will have a hearty and soothing meal, ideal for lifting spirits on gloomy days.
What are the differences between dumplings and wontons?
Despite having some similarities, dumplings and wontons are definitely not the same thing. They vary from each other in terms of wrapper, shape, size, filling, etc. among other things.
Firstly, dumplings have thicker wrappers compared to wontons, which serve a specific purpose. The thinner wrappers of wontons are less likely to fall apart when boiled or fried, and their thinness allows them to become crispy when fried. On the other hand, dumplings are mainly steamed and added to soups, reducing the risk of wrapper breakage. Thus, dumplings can use a thicker wrap without compromising their integrity during the cooking process.
Again, the wrappers of dumplings are usually round in shape. They can be crafted from various types of dough, but eggs are not commonly included in the ingredients On the other hand, wonton wrappers are square in shape, and they may contain eggs.
Also, regarding size, dumplings come in different forms, serving both as appetizers and main meals. Appetizer dumplings are typically small, while the main meal variants are larger, offering a more satisfying and filling dining experience. On the other hand, wontons are usually smaller in size and are served as appetizers or in soups.
Finally, one of the most significant differentiating factors between dumplings and wontons is the presence of filling. Dumplings may or may not have any filling in them. If they do, the fillings might be sweet or savoury.
Savoury dumplings most of the time have meat like beef, pork, shrimp, etc. and vegetables like cabbage, bok choy, carrots, etc. On the contrary, wontons must have fillings in them which are also very versatile. The fillings of wontons are often much well seasoned than the fillings of dumplings.
In conclusion, dumplings and wontons, both beloved staples of East Asian cuisine, share certain similarities, yet each possesses distinct characteristics that set them apart. In doing so, both dishes complement each other in East Asian cuisine, contributing to the rich tapestry of flavours that continue to captivate the palates of food enthusiasts worldwide. If you are interested in exploring the fascinating world of East Asian cuisine, we would definitely suggest you start with dumplings and wontons!