China has been perfecting the art of dumpling making since the Sung dynasty. Chinese dumplings may be round or crescent-shaped, boiled or pan-fried. The filling may be sweet or savory; vegetarian or filled with meat and vegetables.
In northern China, it is customary for families to spend New Year's Eve preparing batches of Jiaozi together, to be enjoyed after midnight. And, just as 19th-century English cooks hid a silver thruppence inside each batch of Christmas pudding, one lucky family member may bite into something hard and discover a gold coin inside their dumpling.
Recreating homemade versions of dim sum favorites can be a challenge when you're faced with recipes for "Jiaozi," Har Gow," and "Siu Mai," with no pictures. Here is a description of different types of Chinese dumplings, and links to recipes for making them in your own kitchen.
These crescent-shaped dumplings with pleated edges are normally filled with meat or vegetables, although you'll occasionally find recipes calling for more unusual ingredients such as shrimp and even winter melon. The filling ingredients are enclosed in a flour and water dough that is thicker than a wonton wrapper. Jiaozi can be boiled, pan-fried or steamed. These dumplings are very popular during Chinese New Year celebrations.
The words gow gee and jiaozi have the same meaning. Gow gee is simply the Cantonese romanization (representation) of the Mandarin jiaozi.
Potsticker dumplings are pan-fried on the bottom and then steamed. It's traditional to flip them over before serving so that the browned, pan-fried side is on top. Potstickers are one of the most popular types of Chinese dumplings.
Har Gow are tasty shrimp dumplings with the translucent wrappers served at Chinese dim sum. These plump snacks filled with shrimp and bamboo shoots are famous for their smooth, shiny skin. The secret to the dough is wheat starch, available in Asian markets - you won't get the same result using a flour and water dough or wonton wrappers.
Also called Cook and Sell Dumplings, these are mild tasting steamed dumplings recognizable by their cup or basket shape, with the filling sticking out at the top. One food writer compared eating Siu Mai to biting into a soufflé because the dumpling is so soft and puffy. Traditionally they are filled with pork, although shrimp or prawns are also used. Siu Mai are normally made with round skins: use round (gyoza) wrappers or square wonton wrappers cut into circles.
Not buns at all, but meat or seafood-filled dumplings famous for being very juicy and flavorful. Shanghai Steamed buns are recognizable for their unique design, as the filled wrapper is gathered up into several folds prior to steaming.