Steamed vs fried dumplings. You might find it soft, delicate, or crisp and golden when you bite into a dumpling. These treats come in two main types - steamed and fried. Each dumpling tells a different story, full of unique flavors and textures. They might look similar on the outside, but they're worlds apart inside. This article clarifies their differences, ingredients, and how they're cooked.
When we consider steamed vs fried dumplings, their assembly is almost identical. The distinction lies in their cooking method: steamed dumplings are delicately cooked in a steamer, yielding a soft texture, while fried dumplings are crisped to golden perfection in a pan, creating a contrasting yet equally satisfying experience.
- Cooking Method Matters: Steaming gives dumplings a soft, smooth texture while frying creates a fantastic contrast between the crispy exterior and tender filling.
- Ease of Preparation: Both dumpling types have similar prep steps, but steaming can be easier for beginners since it requires less active monitoring than frying.
- Dough Consistency: While the dough ingredients are the same for both flour and water, the texture may differ. Steamed dumplings do well with softer dough, while fried ones need a slightly stiffer mix to withstand frying.
What are Dumplings?
Imagine a tasty filling wrapped in a soft dough, then cooked till it's just right. That, my friends, is what we call a dumpling. In China, these small packets of deliciousness can contain either ground meat or seafood mixed with chopped veggies or herbs. The outside? It's made from wheat and can take different shapes - like a square, a ball, or a half-moon.
There's no one way to cook a dumpling. Some people love to boil them. Others prefer frying. And then some swear by steaming. Dumplings are so common in China that there's no word for 'dumpling' - each type has its unique name.
Let's look at a few favorites. Soup dumplings are a classic, filled with a mouthful of hot, flavorful broth. Shrimp dumplings are light and delicate, while pork buns are heartier, with a rich meat filling. And then there are the many varieties of jiaozi, mandu, and gyoza - each a star in its own right in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese cuisines.
Steamed vs Fried Dumplings: Comparison Table
Let's look into the flavorful world of dumplings - steamed and fried. These delectable parcels of joy might seem similar, but each style offers a unique taste and texture journey worth exploring.
|Criteria||Steamed Dumplings||Fried Dumplings|
|Cooking Method||Cooked over boiling water in a steamer, which renders them soft and moist.||Cooked in a skillet with some oil, leading to a golden, crispy exterior.|
|Common Fillings||Finely chopped vegetables, meats, or seafood.||A mix of minced meat and vegetables, but the possibilities are endless.|
|Taste and Texture||Tender, slightly chewy texture and a fresh, clean taste.||Soft top and crispy bottom. Frying imbues them with a savory, and toasty flavor.|
|Dough||Thinner and more delicate, allowing for a translucent appearance when steamed.||Thicker to withstand the frying process and to achieve a crisp exterior.|
|Serving Suggestions||Served with a light dipping sauce to highlight their subtle flavors.||A range of dips, including rich and spicy sauces that can match their bold taste.|
|Variations||Har gow (shrimp dumplings), xiaolongbao (soup dumplings), and siu mai are some famous steamed dumplings.||Guotie (Chinese pan-fried dumplings), yaki gyoza (Japanese fried dumplings), and empanadas (Latin American fried dumplings) are well-known.|
|Ideal For||Those who prefer lighter, more subtle flavors, or anyone watching their calorie intake.||Anyone who enjoys a mix of textures and robust flavors, and isn't overly concerned about calorie content.|
|Nutritional Benefits||Lighter and lower in fat, making them a healthier choice, depending on the fillings.||Higher in fat due to frying.Also nutritious if filled with a balanced mix of protein and vegetables.|
1 Cooking Method:
Steamed dumplings are gently cooked using steam from boiling water, giving them a softer, tender exterior. They're lighter, making them a favorite for those who prefer a healthier option.
On the other hand, Fried dumplings are all about achieving that golden, crispy exterior. Cooked in hot oil, these dumplings pack a more robust flavor. The contrast between the crunchy exterior and the soft, juicy filling is simply delightful.
Steamed dumplings come out softer and a bit chewy. When cooked right, they have a beautiful translucency, and the dough is supple, easily giving way to the stuffing inside.
Fried dumplings feature a glorious range of textures. The bottom becomes delightfully crispy from the frying, while the top part retains a soft and chewy texture, thanks to the brief steaming that follows the initial frying.
Steamed dumplings are subtle. The steaming allows the flavors of the fillings to shine truly. Be it a simple vegetable stuffing or a complex meat and spice combo, steaming ensures none of the flavors are lost.
Fried dumplings offer a heartier flavor. The frying process creates a rich, caramelized crust that adds to the overall taste. The contrast of the crispy skin and the flavorful filling makes for an interesting play of flavors in the mouth.
4 Comparing the Flavors
Steamed dumplings offer a subtle, delicate taste, celebrating the natural flavors of their fresh ingredients. The light seasoning complements, without overpowering, the filling, creating a harmonious balance of flavors.
In contrast, fried dumplings are all about bold, robust flavors. Their crispy shell encases a juicy filling enriched with a stronger seasoning. The contrast of textures and the flavor explosion upon the first bite create a more pronounced, indulgent experience.
Steamed dumplings are lower in calories as they are not cooked in oil. They're a great choice if you're watching your intake.
Because they're cooked in oil, Fried dumplings have a higher calorie count. But the extra calories also mean an extra punch of flavor. Remember, though, moderation is key!
The dough for both types is typically made with a basic mixture of flour and water. However, for steamed dumplings, the dough should be softer for easier wrapping and a tender bite.
For fried dumplings, a slightly stiffer dough is preferred to withstand frying without falling apart.
Remember, there's no right or wrong choice between steamed and fried dumplings. It all boils down to personal preference. Some might lean towards the light, subtle flavors of the steamed variety, while others might crave the hearty, crispy satisfaction of the fried ones.
Three Ways for Tasty Dumplings
1 Pan-Frying Dumplings: A Mix of Tender and Crispy
First, let's talk about pan-frying dumplings. It's a blend of frying and steaming, giving you soft and crispy parts. It's a good starting point for newbies because you can use dumpling wrappers from the store, and you don't have to worry about your dumplings falling apart in boiling water.
- Place the dumplings in a skillet with 1-2 tablespoon oil, add a splash of water, and cover to let them steam.
- Leave the dumplings in the pan after the water has evaporated to allow them to crisp up on the bottom.
2 Boiling Dumplings: The Traditional Way
Boiling dumplings is quite popular in China, but you need to be good at sealing them so the filling won't escape when you drop them in a pot of boiling, salted water. The result? You'll get small, moist dumplings, usually shaped like a crescent.
3 Steaming Dumplings: Flexibility in Shapes and Sizes
Last but not least, you can steam your dumplings. This method uses a steamer basket that sits above a wok or pot filled with boiling water. The best part about steaming is that your dumplings can be bigger than the boiled ones, and you can play around with different shapes (ever tried open-top dumplings?). You should use very hot water to make the dough to ensure that steamed dumplings stay soft.
Five Chinese Dumplings You Must Try
1 Jiao Zi - The Iconic Trio
The most identifiable type of Chinese dumpling is jiao zi (pronounced "jow-zee"), which you'll often see in Chinese cuisine. It's typically served with a tangy vinegar dip and is known by three different names, depending on its cooking method.
- Shui jiao - These are the boiled kind. They usually have a crescent shape with pleats filled with tasty ground pork and napa cabbage. These are a popular choice during Chinese New Year.
- Guo tie - You might also hear these called jian jiao or pot stickers. They're pan-fried; the name literally translates to "wok stuck." Working with Guo tie, or pot stickers as they're often called, is a culinary delight. They're typically pan-fried, their name translating to 'wok stuck.' But here's a little kitchen secret for you – these can also be cooked using a frozen potstickers dumplings air fryer. This technique gives them a crispy exterior that's just simply irresistible!
- Zheng jiao - These are the steamed variety. They're known for their thin, see-through wrappers, typically packed with shrimp.
2 Har Gow - The Dim Sum Classic
Har gao (pronounced "ha-gow") is a dumpling shaped like a half-moon. It's made with a clear, thin cover from wheat and tapioca starch. Inside this dumpling, you'll find a yummy filling of shrimp, small bits of pork fat, and pieces of bamboo shoots. This is cooked by steaming, making it a juicy and flavorful bite. The word "gow" is the Cantonese equivalent of "jiao."
3 Shu Mai - Open-Top Delight
Shu Mai (pronounced "shoo-my") is another steamed dim sum favorite featuring pork and shrimp filling. Often garnished with a sprinkle of crab roe or bits of diced carrots, these dumplings have open tops. Check my post about the Shu Mai recipe here.
4 Hun Dun - Square Wontons
Wontons are a type of Chinese dumpling, just like the dumplings you can find in various cooking styles and methods. They can be boiled, steamed, or fried, depending on the tasty ingredients they're filled with. Making a wonton is a bit like making a mini pie. We start with a square piece of dough made from wheat flour, egg, and water - quite similar to the dough for Italian ravioli but a bit thinner.
5 Xiao Long Bao - Soup Dumplings
Xiao long bao, also known as "soup dumplings," look like little purses made from dough thicker than what you'd find on other dumplings. They're crimped at the top to keep the filling inside. But they aren't filled with soup! They usually contain chopped pork, sometimes crab, and special pork parts high in collagen. When the dumplings are steamed, this collagen transforms into a tasty, rich broth. It's like having a mini soup bowl inside your dumpling!
How to Steam Dumplings
Assembling Your Steamer. Steaming dumplings traditionally involves using a metal or bamboo steamer, a round vessel with a flat base and top. These steamers are often stackable, allowing you to cook multiple batches of dumplings simultaneously. Now, let's walk through how to use a bamboo steamer to steam your dumplings:
Prepping the Steamer. Start by lining your bamboo or metal steamer with Napa cabbage leaves or parchment paper. This helps avoid any stickiness between the dumplings and the steamer. You can either set the dumplings on individual small pieces of parchment paper or cut out rounds that snugly fit the steamer basket. Remember to poke holes in the parchment paper to allow the steam to pass through. Now, you can cover your steamer with its lid.
Ready the Pan. Next, fill a wok or a pan with an inch of water. Position the bamboo steamer in the pan so its base touches the water. This step is crucial to ensure the bamboo steamer is not burnt. But if you're using stainless steel steamers, you don't have to worry about this part.
It's Steaming Time. it's time to cook! Bring the water to a boil and steam your dumplings until thoroughly cooked. This usually takes about ten minutes, but cooking time can differ based on the size of the dumplings and how close the steamer is to the heat. Monitor the water level and refill the pot with hot water as needed. Cold water is a no-no, as it will slow the cooking process.
How to Pan-Fried Dumplings
Getting Started. You must start by greasing a large skillet with a lid for the perfect pan-fried dumplings. Cast iron works best, but any sturdy skillet will do. Pour in a good amount of vegetable oil and crank up the heat to medium-high. Once it's good and hot, carefully arrange your dumplings in a single layer, pleat side up, and let them sizzle.
The Sizzle and Steam. When you hear the dumplings start sizzling, you'll know it's time for the next step—that should take a minute. When they're sizzling away, carefully pour in a ¼ cup of water and quickly cover the skillet with the lid. Next, you'll steam the dumplings until the filling firms up and the wrapper cooks thoroughly, which should take about 3 minutes. Be sure to keep an eye on the pan—if it dries out before the dumplings are done, add a bit more water and keep steaming.
Crisping Up. Now, here's where we get that amazing crispy bottom! After your dumplings are fully cooked, remove the lid and continue to cook them until all the water has evaporated. You're looking for that golden brown, crispy bottom that makes pan-fried dumplings irresistible.
The Finishing Touch. Remove the pan from the heat once your dumplings have reached perfect crispiness. Gently transfer the dumplings to plates using a spatula—be careful, they'll be hot! Now, all that's left is to serve them up while they're still warm, with a delicious dipping sauce on the side.
Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Creating perfect dumplings can be tricky, but once you've mastered the technique, you're in for a treat! Let's look at some common pitfalls and how to avoid them.
- Overstuffing: There's a temptation to load up dumplings with lots of filling. Don't. Too much stuffing can cause your dumplings to burst during steaming. Practice moderation—about a spoonful should do the trick.
- Improper Sealing: Make sure the edges of your dumplings are sealed tight. Any gaps can let in steam, making the filling soggy. A good seal also helps maintain the dumpling's shape.
- Overcrowding the Steamer: Give your dumplings space to steam. Cramming them in too closely can cause them to stick together. Place them apart so they're not touching.
- Uneven Dumpling Size: Keep your dumplings uniform in size. Different sizes mean different cooking times; nobody wants an undercooked or overcooked dumpling.
- Incorrect Oil Temperature: Too hot, and your dumplings will burn before the insides are cooked. Too cool, and they'll absorb too much oil and become greasy. Keep the oil at a steady medium-high heat for the perfect golden-brown finish.
- Not Draining the Dumplings: After frying, let the dumplings drain on a paper towel. This step removes any excess oil and keeps your dumplings crispy.
- Overlooking the Water Step: To get a crispy bottom and a well-cooked top, add a bit of water after the dumplings brown, and cover the pan. The steam cooks the top part of the dumpling while the bottom remains crispy.
- Uneven Dumpling Size: Just like steamed dumplings, keeping your fried dumplings uniform ensures they cook evenly.
Related: How to Reheat Dumplings
It all boils down to their cooking method, texture, taste, calorie count, and the type of dough used. Steamed dumplings are soft and subtle in flavor, allowing the fillings to shine. They're also lower in calories. Fried dumplings offer a delightful contrast of textures thanks to their crispy exterior and soft interior. The frying process also lends a hearty, caramelized flavor. Remember, fried dumplings have a slightly higher calorie count due to the oil.
If you're keeping an eye on your calorie intake, then yes, steamed dumplings are usually a healthier choice. They're cooked with steam, so no oil is involved, which lowers the calorie count. But remember, healthy eating is also about balance, so enjoying some fried dumplings now and then is completely okay!
Both types of dumplings require similar preparation for the dough and the filling. The key difference comes in the cooking method. Steaming might be a bit easier for beginners as it involves less active monitoring than frying. However, with some practice, frying dumplings can be just as simple and gives you that irresistible crispy texture.
The basic ingredients for the dough are the same - flour and water. However, the consistency may vary. For steamed dumplings, a softer dough is easier to wrap and gives a tender bite. For fried dumplings, a slightly stiffer dough can better hold up to the frying process.
That's the magic of pan-frying! You start by frying the dumplings in oil until they're golden brown. Then, add a bit of water and cover the pan, which steams the top part of the dumpling, keeping it soft. Uncover the pan at the end to let any remaining water evaporate and make the bottoms crispy again. Voila - dumplings that are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside!