Potstickers, dumplings, and wontons are among the most ordered dim sum dishes in Cantonese or Asian restaurants around the world. These three favorite foods are dough-wrapped dishes with a sweet or savory filling. With their many similarities in appearance and filling, the three are often mistaken for the other.
What makes them different from one another? In this article, we explore the similarities and differences in dough, filling, and cooking methods. We also compare these dishes to other similar foods such as gyoza, rangoon, and bao.
So the next time you go to a dim sum restaurant, you know exactly what to order. Here’s what you need to know about potstickers, dumplings, and wontons:
Dumplings come in different shapes, sizes, and fillings. It has many variations all around the world, including jiaozi in China, gyoza in Japan, mandu in Korea, and buuz in Mongolia, to name a few.
The most popular shapes of dumplings are crescent and pouch-like.
You can eat dumplings with a dipping sauce. Moreover, it is often enjoyed as an appetizer or snack.
The dough used is made of wheat flour and water. It is not like bao which uses yeast-leavened dough. When cooked, the dough is thick, elastic, and chewy to bite.
However, some types of dumplings can be thin too. Aside from dough wrappers, scrambled egg is used as well, specifically for dan jiao or Chinese egg dumplings. Dan jiao is a type of dumpling where the filling is wrapped around a thin layer of scrambled eggs.
The filling can be savory meat, vegetables, or a sweet jam. Dumplings use shrimp, chicken, pork, seafood, or vegetable filling. The filling is often seasoned with garlic chives, spring onions, or Chinese cabbage.
You can cook dumplings in a variety of ways, including boiling, deep-frying, steaming, baking, simmering, or pan-frying.
What Are Potstickers?
Potsticker is basically a Chinese dumpling, but a specific type of dumpling that is pan-fried. It is a common name for Chinese dumplings in North America. The word potsticker came from the Mandarin word “guotie,” which translates to sticking on the wok or pan stick.
It is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. It is also crescent-shaped, like a typical jiaozi or Chinese dumpling. Generally, potstickers are Chinese dumplings, but not all dumplings are considered potstickers because of the cooking method.
Potstickers use the same dough as a traditional dumpling. However, potstickers use warm water between 110ºF to 130ºF to make the dough suitable for pan-frying and steaming. This type of dough becomes elastic and easy to keep its shape.
It gets delicate and can be rolled thinly. The dough wrapper is thick and soft that turns crispy when cooked.
Like most dumplings, potstickers generally use any type of filling. It can be stuffed with ground pork, chicken, or shrimp. You can also find vegetarian or vegan options that are filled with tofu, cabbage, and carrots instead of ground meat.
Cooking potstickers requires pan-frying and steaming, simply referred to as the steam-fry method. It is first pan-fried with oil until one side is light brown. Then, add some water to let it steam in the pan while covered.
The steaming method helps it cook slowly while preserving the juices. In this way, you get crispy skin and a soft and juicy filling.
What Are Wontons?
Wonton is a type of dumpling that uses a wonton dough wrapper or wonton skin. The skin is smooth and more transparent when boiled. It is commonly served as fried pork dumplings or wonton noodle soup.
Compared to traditional Chinese dumplings, a wonton wrapper is thinner and less elastic. Moreover, it comes in several shapes since it can be folded in many different ways.
The five styles to fold a wonton are Ingot Wonton, Sichuan Chaoshou, Bow Tie Wonton, Fish Wonton, and One Step Wonton.
The dough of a wonton is usually cut into squares. The main ingredients to make the dough are flour, egg, and water. In my recipe, I use one egg and water for the wet mixture, which will be mixed with the dry mixture of flour and cornstarch.
The amount of filling is much less than the filling used for Chinese dumplings. It is common to use ground pork and shrimp for wontons. Then, it is flavored with seasonings such as salt, oyster sauce, and pepper powder.
If you are making wonton noodle soup or red oil wonton, the wontons are typically boiled first. For fried wontons, they can be air-fried or deep-fried. Some wonton recipes call for steaming before mixing it with a flavorful sauce.
Wonton Vs Rangoon
Rangoon is also known as crab rangoon, crab puffs, or cheese wontons. These look similar to a wonton because of its shape and size. However, the difference is mainly in the filling.
The filling for rangoon is usually a combination of crab and cream cheese. It can be crab meat or imitation crab meat mixed with scallions, garlic, and seasonings. Rangoon is fried until crispy, similar to fried wontons.
This wonton variation is commonly served in American Chinese restaurants in North America. It is best served with a dipping sauce such as soy sauce, sweet and sour, and mustard.
Gyoza Vs Potstickers
Gyoza is the Japanese version of a Chinese dumpling, specifically pan-fried potstickers. It is also crescent-shaped, and the size is usually smaller than a potsticker. However, the gyoza wrappers are thinner and more delicate than potstickers.
As for the filling, it has a finer texture than potstickers. Ground pork is commonly used for gyoza, with a mix of green onions, cabbage, ginger, and garlic. It is always paired with a savory dipping sauce that is prepared with soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chili oil.
Another dish that dumplings are commonly confused with is bao or baozi. Bao is a steamed bun dish that is soft and fluffy. It has many variations, including the famous xiaolongbao, cha siu bao, and tangbaozi.
The main difference between bao and dumpling is the dough. Bao uses leavened dough made with yeast, wheat flour, sugar, and water. Adding yeast makes it take longer to rise, giving it a light and fluffy texture.
It is common to cook bao by steaming it with a bamboo steamer basket. The filling is quite similar to a traditional dumpling. It can be stuffed with ground pork, beef, chicken, seafood, or vegetables.
Putting It All Together
In a nutshell, potstickers and wontons are types of dumplings. Potstickers are steam-fried, while wontons are boiled or deep-fried. When it comes to dough ingredients, potstickers or traditional dumplings generally use wheat flour and water.
On the other hand, wontons use flour, egg, and water. All of them have one thing in common: the filling. It can be ground pork, beef, seafood, or vegetables, depending on your liking.
If you want to learn more about dumplings, read my guide Bao Vs Dumpling Vs Dimsum. You can follow my recipes on Wontons (Fried Pork Dumplings) and How To Make Authentic Wonton Wrappers to make your own version of dumplings. Watch my tutorial videos on Instagram and Tiktok.