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What You Need To Get Yourself Started In The Gyoza Vs Dumpling Conversation

Written by Luisa Davis on . Posted in food

Dumpling vs gyoza—what side are you on? Whether you’re still struggling to pick a side or you have absolutely no idea what either dish is, you should keep on reading.

Hopefully, this article will help you pick a side or decide not to pick a side at all.

More so than choosing which recipe is loved more, most people find it difficult to really differentiate these foods. The similarities are close-knit while the differences are not so clear-cut either. Another troubling thing about these dishes is that they bare overlapping names too.

Are dumplings Japanese or Chinese? Can dumpling refer to just one kind of dumpling? Is gyoza a dumpling? A conversation about dumplings is one you should probably not try to engage in unless you’re an expert on them.

“Potstickers” and “jiaozi” are additional terms you might hear in the debate of gyoza vs dumpling.

Why is the Term “Dumpling” Confusing?

Because there are many different types of dumplings. The term “dumpling” is not tied just to one dish, though most people tend to conjure up the image of a Chinese dumpling when they hear the word. That’s one reason why it can get really confusing.

Dumpling is a broad term used to classify any dish that’s made primarily with a piece of dough usually (not always) made from flour. The dough is either wrapped around a filling or wrapped by itself with no filling.

Dumplings offer us a wide variety of filling options, both vegetarian and meaty. A particular kind of dumpling can be vegetarian, meaty, or a mix of both meat and veggies. The fillings are either sweet or savory.

There’s also no one standard method of making dumplings—they can be made by simmering, boiling, frying (shallow or deep frying), baking, or steaming.

Almost every place in the world has at least one dumpling peculiar to the region, and in these places, the dumplings are almost always addressed by very specific names. Though about half of the world’s dumpling population is in Asia, this dish type is also found in Africa, America and Europe.

There’s probably a good reason that you can’t stop thinking of Asia when you hear the word dumplings, since the continent has some of the most famous dumplings coming out of China and Japan, and this is where the stereotype comes from.

Note: India has a lot of dumplings too; however, they’re not yet as famous as those from China and Japan, except for a few exceptions, like the samosa.

In Asia, particularly in Japan and China, dumplings are further subdivided into smaller groups. For example, gyoza—a Japanese dumpling—has about 4 subcategories.

The most common Japanese dumplings are:

  1. Dango: These are sweet dumplings that are served on a skewer, usually 3 or 4 dango per skewer.
  2. Gyoza: Correctly spelled as gyōza, it is the Japanese version of a Chinese dumpling known as jiaozi. A copycat version, if you will.
  3. Nikuman: This is the Japanese version of baozi, also a Chinese dish.

The most common Chinese dumplings are:

  1. Jiǎozi or Jiaozi: The Chinese dumpling from which gyoza originated from. It’s more popular in northern China.
  2. Wonton: With a shape resembling that of Italian tortellini, this is more popular in southern China and has a thinner, less elastic skin wrap.
  3. Baozi: A large subclass of dumplings with dishes such as Cha siu bao and shuijianbao.
  4. Zongzi: A glutinous rice dumpling with fillings that are either sweet or savory. These are traditionally eaten during the Zongzi or Duanwu festival.

Yes, there are several different types of dumplings, but knowing the dumpling which is being referred to in the phrase “gyoza vs dumpling” gets easier if you remember that gyoza has a “twin” dumpling. The dumpling on the spotlight is jiǎozi, incorrectly referred to as Chinese gyoza. However, the gyoza is from jiaozi, not the other way around.

Now that that has been cleared up, keep in mind that dumpling from here on out will be the Chinese dumpling.

What is a Dumpling?

Chinese dumplings can be eaten as a snack, a main course, a side dish, or an appetizer. They are also usually served as an item in dim sum. The jiaozi dumpling is one of the most common Chinese dumplings. It is eaten traditionally on Chinese New Year’s Eve and on other special days, though it is also eaten all year round.

The filling usually consists of minced meat (commonly pork) with finely-chopped veggies such as Napa cabbage. This filling is then wrapped up with a piece of dough skin, which is either thin and elastic or thick and somewhat firm.

Typical meat fillings are pork, beef, chicken, mutton, fish, and shrimp. The meat is usually minced. In Guangdong, shrimp dumplings are the popular filling type. Shrimp dumplings are also known as har gow. This type of dumpling is generally smaller in size; it also has a thinner wrapper, and as such, is significantly easier to cook by steaming.

Typical vegetable fillings are Napa cabbage, leek, celery, garlic chives, carrot, shiitake mushroom, scallion (spring onions), and spinach.

Typical filling mixtures include: garlic chives with scrambled eggs, pork and shrimp with veggies, and pork with Napa cabbage.

Jiǎozi is usually served alongside a dipping sauce made from vinegar, chili oil, and soy sauce (optional). Or you can make them with black vinegar and sesame oil. You can also make a spicy sauce with vinegar, hot sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and rice wine.

Types of jiaozi: The types exist primarily based on their method of cooking, and not the fillings used.

  1. Pan-fried jiaozi, guotie, or potstickers: Served as a side dish, main course, appetizer, or as a part of dim sum. Guotie are shallow-fried in oil on one side until crisp. This is done in a wok after they have been steamed. They can also be fried first on one side before being steamed. In Boston, guotie are known as Peking ravioli.
  2. Boiled jiaozi or shui jiao: This jiaozi is boiled and then served.
  3. Steamed jiaozi or zhēng jiao.

Egg dumplings are a not-so-common jiaozi variation. Fittingly, these are dumplings that use egg to wrap the filling.

To make potstickers, the following dumpling ingredients are needed:

  • Filling (pick your preferred filling from above).
  • Seasoning e.g ginger, kosher salt.
  • Sesame oil
  • Canola oil, to fry if you’re making guotie.
  • Wrappers, to wrap the filling.
  • Water

If well-cooked, your filling remains juicy while one side of the potstickers is crispy, and the other side chewy and tender. To make these, prepare your filling first. Mix the filling with the seasoning and sesame oil, then scoop a little quantity onto the wrapper and fold. Fold tightly enough to prevent the filling’s liquid from leaking out.

Using a little canola oil, fry one side until it’s crispy and brown, then add water and allow it to steam. Remove from heat only after the water has dried up. Serve with a dipping sauce.

What is Gyoza?

This is a dumpling that’s made with minced meat and vegetables as a filling, wrapped in a thin dough. The gyoza, as mentioned before, originated in China as jiaozi and spread to Japan to become gyoza after the second world war.

After the second world war, the Japanese soldiers who had been in China during the war returned home, and they wanted to recreate the jiaozi dumplings they ate while in China. So, they ended up with gyoza.

While the range of fillings is truly diversified and is not restricted, the typical fillings are: minced pork, green onions, and shredded cabbage. However, cheese, shiso leaf, shiitake mushroom, natto (fermented soybeans), shrimp, or other seafood can also be used as fillings. The list is endless, but these should get you started!

Japanese dumplings are seasoned with garlic chives (known as nira), soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, and garlic.

Types of gyoza: The types of gyoza are named after the method by which they’re prepared.

  1. Yaki gyoza or pan fried dumplings: These are the most common gyoza dumplings and are the exact opposite of the Chinese guotie or pot stickers. These are made by pan-frying in a hot skillet, then boiling and steaming in a mixture of water and cornstarch which is poured into the covered pan.
    The lid is later removed, thus allowing the yaki gyoza to crisp up. The crisp nature is done on just one side of the dumpling. After cooking, you end up with a juicy filling, crispy bottom, and tender top.

The gyoza ingredients are pretty similar to those of potstickers and the cooking process is also similar.

When the individual yaki gyoza are allowed to stick together to become one batch, they are known as hanetsuki gyoza, or gyoza with wings.

  1. Age gyoza, or deep-fried dumplings: These are served hot. They’re not as common as the pan-fried version but are also crispy and delicious. You can find them easily in any gyoza specialty shops.
  2. Sui gyoza: These are boiled either in water or soup broth and have a nice tender chewy, gyoza wrapper.
  3. Mushi gyoza: Instead of frying, you can go for healthier gyoza by steaming. When gyoza is steamed, it is called mushi gyoza.

Best way to eat gyoza

Gyoza has a garlicky taste—the strong flavor of the garlic makes the dish an absolute delight to garlic lovers. Ramen, another borrowed food from China, goes well with gyoza. Gyoza is sometimes served as a side dish to ramen.

However, gyoza is more commonly served with a dipping sauce. Most of the dipping sauces used for gyoza are prepared right on the table where the gyoza is being served. In other words, the sauces are not usually made beforehand.

A very easy sauce to make is to mix equal parts soy sauce and vinegar with a little amount of chili oil (rayu). The soy sauce and vinegar do not necessarily have to be in equal amounts; mix them to taste.

Another dipping sauce to make involves mixing together soy sauce, sesame oil, vinegar, garlic, and chili oil, to taste.

Then, there’s the ponzu sauce—a tangy Japanese citrus sauce, it is made with citrus juice, rice wine vinegar, and soy sauce. The soy sauce is optional, so taking it out does not stop the ponzu sauce from having its umami flavor.

The gyoza dumplings can be served as the main course, a side dish, or as an appetizer. They are easily found at ramen shops because they make a great food pairing. You can also find them in gyoza specialty shops, izakaya (casual diners), and Chinese restaurants.

The Difference Between Gyoza And Dumplings

Frankly, there isn’t very much of a difference. Pan-fried gyoza look very much like pot stickers; the taste is similar too, though that depends on what filling is used. However, there are still a few things that would help you differentiate between the two if a plate of both pan-fried gyoza and Chinese pot stickers were placed right in front of you.

For starters, they vary significantly in size. The Japanese dumpling (gyoza) is smaller in size and could be eaten in just 2 bites, but for potstickers (guotie), it would take about 4 bites to finish.

Another difference is the skin (wrapper). Gyoza has thin skin while guotie has thick skin. Due to the thin skin of gyoza, they are crispier than guotie.

And of course, they both can’t taste exactly the same way. That’s mostly thanks to gyoza being heavy on garlic, though there’s also the dipping sauce to consider.

That’s basically everything when it comes to their differences.

Similarities Between Gyoza And Dumplings

Gyoza and dumplings are more similar than they are different. The dishes span between two different cultures, but for some people, the difference is only in the name. The best way to highlight the differences would be to think about the other types of gyoza and Chinese dumplings.

Their similarities are:

  1. Similar folding technique: The folding technique for gyoza could work well for guotie too, just be reminded that there are different types of folds.
  2. Cooking style: As long as it’s the pan-fried types of both, then there’s actually no difference between how they’re cooked.
  3. Fillings
  4. They are commonly eaten with a dipping sauce.
  5. They can both be served as appetizers, side dishes, or even as the main course.

The similarities could go on and on but not the differences. So if you’re wondering which pan-fried version (gyoza vs dumpling) tastes better, you’re going to have to make some yourself or buy some. And enjoy!

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis

Luisa Davis is a frelance writer and foodie based in Portland, California. Though raised on her mother's homestyle Italian cooking, she has spent most of the last five years traveling and immersing herself in other countries' cuisines. Her work have been published in various publications, both online and offline.

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