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#60 Wontons

Posted April 17th, 2008 by Peter · 21 Comments

“Wontons,” which are the anglicized form of two Chinese words that literally mean “small dumpling,” are greatly enjoyed by Asians. In fact, wontons have a storied history stretching back to even before the medieval times. You asked for it, it’s this weekend’s asian food feature.

The stuffed dumpling, as humble as it seems, is a canto dish with an even more fascinating history. The wonton’s history spans across many centuries and a variety of cultures. Let’s start with Marco Polo, who was flabbergasted to find the Chinese he discovered in the 13th Century eating stuffed noodles. (Lasagna/Pasta anyone?) Italians weren’t the only people to find it delectable. Russians, Siberians, even the ill-fated Jews have their own “copycat” wontons.

Now why would people from all around the world love the Wonton? Is it the crunchy wonton wrapper after being deep-fried? Is it the savory seasoned minced pork filling? Or is it the extreme versatility and portability? Yes. It’s all those things and more. Asians love the wonton, which is sometimes synonymous with the dumpling, because of:

The Choices: There’s the fried wonton, steamed wonton, wonton soup with pork and shrimp filling, crisp-burnt wontons, and the increasingly popular Vegetarian Wonton (which makes many asians believe that they are doing themselves a favor by eating a fresh green treat that has been wrapped by a layer of dough and then deep fried). There’s also…

The Ease of Preparation: Wontons are seasoned meat fillings wrapped in dough. Asians love quick fixes, so wontons enable them to mass produce food much like many of the sweatshops they left in their native countries. That is why they are so popular in Dim Sum Restaurants (save for later post).

Whether it’s in an evening snack, or causing a heart attack, asians love their fried food. This is especially true when the food has been imitated around the world. But that’s beside the point. Asians like the Wonton for its extreme versatility and production ability, two very important factors determining the Asian GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Do You Want to Learn how to Make Dumplings?

Shrimp and Pork Asian Dumplings (via thePauperedChef)


1/2 pound of shrimp, peeled and roughly chopped
2 oz of ground pork
6 water chestnuts, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons dry vermouth
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons Oyster Sauce
1 teaspoon Sesame Oil
1/2 egg white
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 green onions, minced
1 package of wonton wrappers
salt and pepper

Adapted from the Cooks Illustrated.

Fill a large pot with water so that it comes within an inch of the top. Get that sucker boiling.

It felt rather weird chopping up uncooked shrimp. I’m not sure why; It just does.
Combine all the ingredients, except for the wonton wrappers, in a bowl.

Mix until you get a nice and colorful glob. The hardest part I found was trying to break up the ground pork so it would be evenly distributed.

Now it’s time to break out those wontons. For the pyramid dumplings, simply take one of the squares and lightly wet the edges. Fill it with roughly 1-2 teaspoons of the filling. Use less than you think you’ll need at first, and then test your luck as you get more confident.


I should have a better diagram than this, but it’s pretty easy. Just pull up two opposite sides and pinch together the top. Repeat on the other side.

Then you will be able to pinch together each side until it looks much like this.


For the regular pot-stickers, you’ll need a round wonton. Cooks illustrated suggested using a cookie cutter to get that nice cutout. A glass works fine, too.


Once you have the circle, wet the edges like before. Then put a teaspoon of filling in and fold in half. Pinch the edges.
Once the edges are secured, press down on the filling lightly to make a flat bottom so that the dumpling will stand up.

Then simply toss your dumpling in a steamer over top the boiling water and cook for 6 minutes.


It really couldn’t be much easier.


Oh, and a nice dipping sauce will enhance everything.

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Tags: Activities · Chinese · Culture · Customs · Food & Beverage · People · Products

21 responses so far ↓

  • 1 YASPY Chick // Apr 18, 2008 at 5:52 am

    I think technically the generic term is “gau”/”gaugee” (rhymes with cow), since wonton is shaped a certain way and cooked in boiling water rather than steam…I’ll have to check though.

  • 2 Steve // Apr 18, 2008 at 6:08 am

    oh, baby!
    jiaozi is my favorite food in the whole world
    when i saw the round dough i nearly cried; catching that dipping sauce at the end put me over the edge, though

  • 3 Hundun // Apr 18, 2008 at 7:31 am

    wonton means literally “chaos” as in the poor fellow who was the origin of the world. They kept poking holes in him to give him senses and when they were done it had killed him and created the matter of the world. Yummy!

  • 4 blah // Apr 18, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    yeah…i don’t think wonton means “small dumplings” Cause the Chinese characters for it is “馄饨” and it has nothing to do with dumplings or small…

    Wonton isn’t completey Canto either, cause there’s the Northern Chinese style too…so yeah, your info’s a bit off

    And the dumplings in the recipe are so pathetic looking……-_-

    Sorry if I sound overly critical…but it’s just that your facts aren’t completely right.

  • 5 SD Steve // Apr 18, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    My wife always rolls the wonton skins to make them thinner, and thinner seems to be better when it comes to dumplings, especially xiaolongbao.

    For boiled dumplings, she’ll make the dough from scratch and then roll it into a long tube-like shape, then cut it about 3/4″ thick. I’ll then roll them flat and once the filling is in, take the tops and “accordian” them to look more presentable.

    For dipping sauce on boiled dumplings, I prefer to use 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and o1tablespoon of soy sauce. Then I shake in some pepper flakes like you put on top of pizza. Really tastes great!

  • 6 Justin // Apr 18, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    wow! thanks for the tips =D

  • 7 Kevin // Apr 19, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Wontons can be steamed or fried either way, but they are not the same as dumplings

  • 8 helrokitty // Apr 20, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    I love how the jews are “ill-fated” lmao..poor jews, always getting screwed in someway or another. I love the wonton recipe! i will have to try and make some…..then once i mess up i will order them from the asian restaurant! yay

  • 9 dimsumrocks // Apr 21, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    the won part of wonton means clouds. because in wonton soup, the wonton skins look like clouds. in your tutorial, the filling looks right but the shape is not. when cooked in soup, the extra skin portion should be bunched on top like…like…pebble flinstone’s hairdo.

  • 10 dimsumrocks // Apr 21, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    sorry metaphors are rough. here’s a wikipedia link:

  • 11 Thi // Aug 12, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Dude…you don’t even know your Chinese! Wonton comes from 雲吞. 雲 means clouds. 吞 means swallow or gulp. Therefore, Wonton can literally mean swallowing clouds!

    And to respond to some of the comments:
    Gaugee (餃子/Jiaozi) is different than Wonton. The primary difference is that jiaozi/gaugee skin is thick and also uses different ingredients than Wonton.

    What you know as potstickers in North America is called 鍋貼 (guotie or wortip) which is basically jiaozi that is panfried.

  • 12 Wonton Lover // Jan 29, 2009 at 12:23 am

    I totally agree with Thi! I am a big fan of wontons and they are definitely NOT the same as dumplings. Also, wonton does not mean “small dumplings” literally at all. It actually literally means “clouds swallow”. I guess it has the cloud part of the name because of its looks and the texture of the skin. This is the Cantonese translation of the Wonton, Won means “clouds”, and ton means “to swallow”. Whereas in Mandarin, it’s just a word with the same sound effect as wonton but does not have too much particular meaning like it does wih the Cantonese words. And I also would like to add, a lot of the wontons I have had seem to have less filling compared to dumplings. I think that’s why I enjoy eating it so much, it lets you taste and savour the slippery pastry skin more. So in contrast to wontons, dumplings are made up of mostly filling and you don’t get to taste the pastry much. Oh and the skin of wontons are much thinner than the thick flour pastry in dumplings, just another point that makes wontons much tastier than dumplings.

  • 13 Wonton Lover // Jan 29, 2009 at 12:34 am

    Oh and can anyone confirm HunDun’s background story for Wonton? I don’t think I quite understand how Wonton has the literal meaning of chaos? I’ve never heard of it. And I just checked with the mandarin translation of Wonton, it’s pronounced HunTun. So close enough to Wonton I guess. XD
    馄饨 (Mandarin)
    云吞 (Cantonese)
    *hope the chinese characters come out alright* if not then you guys should go refer to the wiki page dimsumrocks above have pointed out.

  • 14 yao // Apr 23, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    um… a lot of the information in this post is flat out incorrect. wontons are not fried (except in american cuisine) and do not mean “small dumpling”. in fact, the pictures mostly show jiao zi, which are similar, but not the same. wontons are eaten in soup. i’m guessing an asian did not write this post.

  • 15 haha // Sep 1, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    *frowns* wontons are not just eaten in soup. and i for one, like fried wonton…and it’s not just in american cuisine….i’ve been to several chinese places that fry it…tho they might be adapting to american people’s ideas or whatever but still…

    btw, to the poster of this article…your wontons are ugly!!!! >.>” XD sorry i had to say that….lol

  • 16 Robert // Mar 2, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    @Thi, The Cantonese for ‘guo tie’ would be ‘wok tik’, not ‘wortip’, although in practice it is never spoken in Cantonese because the ‘wok sticker’ style dumpling came from the north.

    I recently learned this from my friend in Shenzhen who speaks both Mandarin and Cantonese fluently, because I was curious about the origin of the words. She giggled when I asked about how to say ‘guo tie’ in Cantonese and said, “No one says that.”

  • 17 Robert // Mar 2, 2010 at 9:52 pm

    An apology may be needed since I just came across this site:

    which also lists the Cantonese for ‘guo tie’ as ‘wor tip’, BUT I stand by my friend’s explanation that this is a ‘northern Chinese invention’ and no one usually bothers to translate them into Cantonese…

    As a side note: I became interested in all of this after reading a great book called:
    Chop Suey : The history of Chinese food in America

    Also I should note that although I can read and speak Mandarin, my Cantonese sucks.

  • 18 misswonton // Jun 28, 2010 at 1:27 am

    i havenot tried one get but how i would like one after ready your comments

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  • 21 ilovehorseyrides // Sep 27, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    We only eat them with soup. Rarely fried

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