When it comes to Asian cuisine, almost nothing beats traditional dumplings. And luckily for fans of the savory-filled dough, there are several varieties to be found. Two of the most popular versions are jiaozi and bao buns, two very distinct plays on the bite-size food. Not sure which is which? Keep reading to learn more about the differences between jiaozi and bao.
Jiaozi is the traditional Chinese treat that most people think of when they hear the word “dumpling.” It is a crescent-shaped parcel of dough that contains a hot, savory filling usually made from meat and/or vegetables. Usually, the jiaozi are steamed, using a unique steaming system, though occasionally you will find them pan-fried. This is more common to Japanese cuisine, however.
To make jiaozi, a quick dough is made of flour and water. There is no leavening agent, so the dough will not rise. Instead, when steamed, the dough becomes tender and slightly chewy. Alternatively, pre-made dumpling skins are often available in the frozen section of international or Asian markets.
Once the dough is mixed, it can be divided into individual portions. This is done simply by dividing the ball of dough in half, then half again, and so on. The skins are then rolled flat with a rolling pin and should have a center that is slightly thicker than the edges so that it doesn’t fall apart in the middle during cooking.
Then, the filling is placed in the center of the dough. The filling can be made of anything, but the most traditional versions of Chinese jiaozi contain ground pork with Napa cabbage and scallions, leeks with egg and mushrooms, and shrimp with pork and garlic chives.
Whether pan-fried or steamed, jiaozi is a delicious snack that is easy to make and even freezes well for future use.
Bao buns, or baozi, are very similar to jiaozi in concept but provide a different eating experience. The primary difference between baozi and jiaozi is that baozi uses a leavened dough. Unlike the simple water and flour mixture for jiaozi, bao dough is made from flour, soy or dairy milk, sugar, and yeast. After allowing the dough to rise, the dough can be portioned and filled with the exact same fillings as you would use for jiaozi.
Baozi are also exclusively steamed – you won’t typically find pan-fried versions. When the dough is steamed, it becomes soft, fluffy, and slightly chewy. They’re also much bigger than jiaozi; one or two bao buns make a delicious street-food breakfast for workers in China.
The slightly sweet dough of the bao bun also makes it a great candidate for a dessert dumpling. Baozi filled with sweet red bean paste or black sesame paste make a satisfying and not overly sweet treat.
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