Chinese Dumplings are the most common street food found in China that has many different versions that can throw westerners off because of the different names but similar look and texture.
I’ve had a chance to try an array of different types of Chinese dumplings and have chosen the top 10 according to me. These are the most loved and savoured in china and usually served during the Chinese new year.
To make it easier to understand, dumplings are categorised into two types depending on their shape.
Gao – that takes the shape of a crescent moon.
Bao – that takes the shape of a coin pouch.
Under these two categories, there are countless variations that can vary from the wrap to the filling to create an amazing dish.
So let’s get started with the most popular dumplings down to the most unique ones.
Top 10 Chinese Dumplings
Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings)
The Xiao Long Bao dumpling is at the top of my list for being the most commonly served and liked Chinese dumpling. The dumpling was created in the suburbs of Shanghai and are known for being a speciality in Shanghai.
The base of the dumpling is a mixture of pork and spices which is wrapped with a thin wheat wrapper. A soup is made from meat stock which is simmered out and cooled to get a gelatin-like texture to compliment the dumplings.
The dumplings are steamed in traditional bamboo baskets with gelatin which melts into the dumpling as it gets steamed to create a burst of flavour in every bite.
The proper way of relishing these Chinese dumplings is to dip the dumpling in soy sauce and a mixture of vinegar and ginger. Make a small hole with your chopsticks into the exterior wrapper which will let out the flavourful meat stock soup. Put the dumpling in your mouth first followed by the soup for the unbelievable combo.
Jiao Zi (Steamed Dumplings)
This version of Chinese dumplings is seen around the world and is the most common form of dumpling available. The dumpling is made with a mixture of ground red meat that is balanced and mixed perfectly with vegetables to create a juicy centre.
The mixture is made into a ball and wrapped with a thin wheat wrap that is crimped at the top giving it the signature dumpling look.
The dumpling is steamed till the meats cook inside their own juices and are served hot to be consumed immediately so that the exterior wrapper doesn’t get rubbery.
Har Gow (Shrimp Dumplings)
If you’re a seafood lover, you will enjoy the flavour of a Har Gow Chinese dumpling. It has an oval shape with a thin wrapper made of wheat and tapioca. The dumpling is stuffed with fresh shrimp that’s smeared with pork fat and a piece of bamboo shoot to compliment.
What makes this dumpling stand out is its unique shape with seven to 10 pleats that give it a refined character. The tapioca gives the wrapper a stretchy consistency that other dumplings don’t offer.
The dumplings are steamed till the pork fat liquefies and is absorbed by the shrimp, to give it a unique combination of flavours from the sea.
Sheng Jian Bao (Steamed Dumplings)
Sheng Jain Bao is very similar to the Xian Long Bao style of Chinese dumplings. It is made with a mixture of seafood and pork bits that is cooked in a copulated meat stock broth. The mixture is heated till the broth is absorbed in the meat.
The wrapper is made from wheat that is thicker than the texture of a Xian Long Bao that helps trap the flavours that are waiting to explode when you take your first bite.
The dumplings are garnished with finely chopped scallions and sesame oil that give it a beautiful aroma.
The preparation of these dumplings is also quite different, they’re shaped into small balls and are cooked in a skillet partially filled with water rather than being steamed in a bamboo basket.
The water evaporates around the dumpling allowing it to steam till the water is completely dried out giving the bottom of the dumpling a nice crunchy texture.
Wontons (Square Dumplings)
Wontons are another form of a dumpling that is common among Chinese dishes, that can be made in multiple ways that differ depending on the filling you decide to have in it. It can be boiled, steamed or fried, the choice is yours depending on the meat inside but most commonly it has a pork centre.
The wrapper is made from a mixture of wheat and water with eggs added to give it a lovely texture. They are rolled out into a sheet similar to ravioli but only thinner then cut into square-shaped boxes. A scoop of the filling is added to the centre of each square then folded together sealing the filling inside.
Wontons are usually boiled and served with a rich meaty soup or can be fried and had as a whole.
Bao Zi (Thick-Wrap Dumplings)
If you’re a fan of thick wheat wrap dumplings you’ll love Bao Zi which is a common dumpling sold by street vendors. The wheat wrapper is made thick to resemble a bun which is stuffed with juicy pork.
A common version of Bao Zi is with the barbecued pork that is stuffed into these buns which are locally called char siu bao. What makes this dumpling truly unique is the different styles it can be served in.
There is a version called Tangbaozi which is very similar to the traditional Xian long bao, it is filled to the brim with meat broth which is consumed through a straw with the thick dumplings in the centre. Since the dumpling has a thicker wrap the broth doesn’t affect the flavour inside the dumpling. Offering an explosion of flavour after every sip from the straw.
Other versions of this dish you must try are Doushabao (where the meat is replaced with a sweet red bean which is made into a paste) and Nai Huang Bao (the meat is replaced with a sweet yellow custard).
Guo Tie Dumplings ( Pan-Fried Dumplings)
Now we have America’s favourite dumpling, the potstickers that are traditionally known in China as Guo Tie. This dish was created as an all-day snack that is stuffed with tender meats and vegetables.
The dumplings are steamed and then pan-fried to give it a crunchy texture outside with a soft juicy centre. It goes amazingly well when dipped with soy sauce that adds a certain softness on the exterior wrap before biting into the dumpling.
This version is found around the world as a snack with drinks or an appetiser before dinner.
Shao Mai (Soup Dumplings)
This style of dumplings are very close to Har Gow and can be found in dishes like Dum Sum.
The filling inside the dumplings is made of green onions, pork, shrimp and mushrooms that is traditionally garnished with crab roe.
The wrapper is made with a thin lye water dough rather than wheat, the wrapper is made into a coin pouch design that is open on top. The dumplings are placed in a blow of Dim Sum that enhances the flavours of the broth.
If you like Har Gow and are looking for a twist in flavour and texture try the Shao Mai style of Dim Sum.
Tang Yuan (Dessert Dumpling)
This dessert dumpling is prepared for special occasions where the wrapper is made of rice flour and water giving it a glutinous texture. The rice flour is mixed properly to create a ball that can be filled. What is filled inside is up to the cook but in most cases chocolate, fruits, peanuts and sesame paste are used for the sweet centre.
Once the ball is filled it is put in a vessel filled with boiling hot water and served hot right after.
The dish is common to see around the Chinese new year, as they are prepared and offered to the guest as good luck.
Here is another Chinese New Year staple, the Yao Gok special fried dumplings. The dish takes its origin from Guangdong, but has made its place in the Chinese dumpling community and is very popular in Hong Kong and Malaysia.
This delectable fried dumpling consists of a combination of peanuts, shredded coconut and sesame. This version is commonly made during the Chinese new year, normally is savoury with pork as the main element.
This version of fried sweet dumplings is also found around the world and has taken flavours of their own country and added it to the dish.
I hope this article has helped you understand the different types of Chinese Dumplings.