Top menu

Dumplings or buns?

As it is almost the weekend and I am starting to get a little peckish, I thought I’d share what I have learned so far about dumplings (jiǎozi) and steamed buns (bāozi), other than the fact that they are very tasty when you get good ones.


Jiǎozi generally consists of a thinly rolled piece of dough filled with ground meat, fish or veg and sealed by pressing the edges together. There are many different kinds of jiǎozi and they all have different names in Chinese depending on where they come from and how they are cooked (steamed, fried, boiled). Don’t get confused with the wonton (a dumpling but not a jiǎozi), who’s dough is made from different ingredients and is thinner. Wontons are also rounder than jiǎozi, have a meatier filling and are usually cooked and served in broth or soup.

Dumpling class in supermarket

Different to jiǎozi, bāozi are a type of steamed filled bun or bread-like item (like ‘broodje bapao’ in Dutch) which also comes in various shapes and forms. Fillings are usually meat or veg but when you least expect it, they come with a sweet bean paste filling (not my favorite yet).

On a previous trip to Shanghai I got a recommendation for a good dim sum restaurant which we tried (twice!) and loved (dim sum referring to the style of food, i.e. small bite-sized or individual portions, like tapas). The restaurant (Din Tai Fung) served the Shanghai style bun called xiǎolóngbāo which are steamed and served in bamboo baskets, usually with soy or other dipping sauces. Apparently these are often called dumplings by English speakers (yours truly included) however they are classed buns due to the fact that they are pinched at the top/middle which makes them round with little pleats… unlike jiǎozi which look more like half moon shapes. We had the lovely characteristic soup-filled kind which most call soup dumplings (again, not a dumpling but a bun) but we call them soap dumplings, due to a very kind Chinese lady telling us ‘they are very nice, there is soap in them‘….

Eating dumplings

As I was trying to get my head around all these different types of food and their chinese names, my lovely Chinese language teacher told me it was like western countries having many names for the Chinese word ‘hànbǎo’, which means hamburger but to the Chinese it just means anything that has a bun around it. I wonder if McDonalds sells many quarter pounders in China…

Speaking of junkfood, I could not resist buying these frozen buns because of their funny name….

Frozen buns

And then I read the instructions on the back:
Do not defrost. Packing small cut in the mouth. With the bag for 4 minutes and seven…

Happy eating!




3 Responses to Dumplings or buns?

  1. hilda August 3, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    I like them, have a nice weekend

  2. goyvon August 9, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Dumplings… I know a good place in Shaoxing. Too bad its to far away from Shenyang 😉

  3. Meriel Donaghy August 17, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    I was in the People’s Park in Dun Laoghaire at the weekend, the farmer’s market was on and there were tonnes of different food stalls with dishes from all over. I stopped off at one and had dumplings, prompted by having read this and remembering how much I enjoyed them on the street when I was in China. Yum-yum-dum-pling.

Leave a Reply