What are "dumplings"?

Not aimed at you, but are dumplings now considered “dim sum” only b/c younger Chinese folks can’t remember how much hardcore, middle-aged and older HK’ers hate(d) dumplings and b/c White folks never knew about this?

It annoys me to no end that XLB can be ordered for dim sum and are considered dim sum.


Was there a time when dumplings weren’t ubiquitous and popular in Hong Kong? Or did people hate them the way everybody I knew hated disco?

XLB as dim sum, well, whaddya gonna do?

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If you hated disco b/c you prefer jazz, then perhaps yes.

My impression (which is perhaps very inaccurate) is that HK/Cantonese people are (justifiably) very proud of their cuisine… to the point where many of them aren’t/weren’t particularly interested in other Chinese cuisines. So sort of like Chinese stomach but more like HK/Canto stomach?

At least, that’s the myth that I grew up w/. But I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong.

But I can say that, growing up (in the SGV), you def weren’t ordering boiled dumplings or XLB at dim sum. They weren’t even on the menu. I have no idea what the situation was in HK (never been).


Old-school HK dim sum had plenty of steamed dumplings.

If you mean har gow and the like, I personally do not consider those to be similar to XLB or jiao zi.

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Shot fired across the bow



What you said was much broader:

Which is an odd claim given har gao, siu mai, etc.

It did seem weird to me 20? years ago when Yank Sing first added XLB, but customers obviously liked it as they stayed on the menu. My understanding is that a lot of those trends started in Hong Kong. It’s a competitive business so they’ve been evolving continuously.

It also seemed odd to me much more recently when I went to Koi Palace in Dublin and they had Sichuan items.

Not necessarily, IMHO. I stand by my broader claim, too. :slight_smile:

I think har gow and siu mai, while similar in appearance to XLB and jiao zi (and let’s through in guo tie, for good measure) are quite different in terms of taste and texture (the wrappers [esp the wrappers], the fillings, and mouth feel).

Perhaps one analogy would be that “regular” chocolate and white chocolate bars (are there such a thing as white chocolate bars) can have similar shapes, but they can taste totally different. Someone who likes one type may not like another.

I honestly think the vareniki (I think that’s what it was) I had at a Russian restaurant were more closely related to jiao zi (minus the creamy sauce) than are har gow.

I personally am not fond of har gow and siu mai (gasp!) but LOVE XLB and jiao zi. My HK friend is just the opposite. I haven’t done a poll, but I think we are not alone in our ability to consider the two categories as quite different (even though I have no doubt that there are lots of people who love both).

And I think that’s the bottom line about why XLB and jiao zi (and Sichuan) are showing up in dim sum places. The market wants it. I think my point (based more on a feeling, since I have no market data) is that this is being driven by younger Chinese or non-Chinese people.

Since regional Chinese is so plentiful in LA (and has been for quite some time), my father used to be very wary of ordering a dish in a restaurant that wasn’t a specialist in that style of food (he doesn’t care so much anymore).

So you’d never even dream of ordering jiao zi at a Cantonese place back in the day (in part b/c it wasn’t on the menu). I mean, we couldn’t even get a bowl of plain white rice at the original JYTH once upon a time (I think that was the place where they literally declined our order for plain white rice).

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Hey, Robert–New/separate thread alert! “XLB and jiao zi as Dim Sum: Threat or Menace?”


My point is they’re all dumplings, so it was weird for you to say “older HK’ers hate(d) dumplings.” Maybe something’s getting lost in translation, like they’re all dumplings in English but not in Cantonese?

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That’s funny because all I get at dim sum are dumplings, But, I do like my Chinese food Americanized.


Oh, do you mean on a linguistic/semantic level? I don’t speak Cantonese at all and speak very little Mandarin. I’ll let the native/fluent speakers opine on this. :slight_smile:

It’s not necessarily American-ized in the sense that the XLB you’re getting a dim sum places are “legit” XLB. And, again, younger folks (of whatever ethnicity) have different preferences and expectations that are not necessarily suggestive of being Americanized. :slight_smile:

for myself (mandarin speaking), ‘dumpling’ in the context of chinese food refers specifically to jiaozi (and possibly guotie/potstickers, but that would already be a stretch of the term for me) and not har gow or siu mai or xlb. by the same token, wontons also do not fall under the category of ‘dumpling’.
as a result, it was very confusing to learn that southern ‘dumplings’ are called dumplings, which are basically the same as chinese mian gada.


Har gow have been called “shrimp dumplings” on English menus since I started eating dim sum in the 70s.

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Ohmigod, YES!!! When partner (whose family is culturally southern) first made chicken and dumplings for me, I was thinking, “This is just a big hunk of dough w/ no filling. How is this a ‘dumpling’???”


I’m with you in the anti dumpling camp for dim sum.

Growing up you never saw jiaozi, guotie, and definitley not XLB on dim sum menus. Since northern/mainland chinese food has become much more popular I get why they are doing because chinese people are all about the $$, but I definitely never order XLBs at dim sum and always try to poo-poo any non-chinese people with me to not order those sucker items.

Go to DTF, Mama’s Lu, or Hui tou xiang if you want that stuff!

I think the disconnect here for the non-chinese people on the thread here is that not everything with a wrapper and something inside of it would be considered what chinese people would consider a “dumpling” as @burritoking mentioned and many “dumplings” are not traditionally meal appropriate for dim sum or hail from non-cantonese portions of china. Even things such as wontons (which are cantonese) are not served for dim sum usually.

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I’m not Chinese so not sure what is appropriate or not on dim sum menus. Menus and restaurants have evolved over the years/decades to cater to changing customer tastes. Not saying that we shouldn’t respect traditions but if the XLB, shu mai or other dumplings taste good why does it matter if they are on dim sum menus even if they are not “traditional”?

Curious since I am definitely somebody who orders various types of dumplings at dim sum.

I consider everything that’s called a dumpling on a dim sum place’s English menu to be a dumpling, so saying, in English, that HK old-timers hated dumplings makes no sense.


Question: do LA dim sum places mainly get their XLB from Mama Lu’s? I thought someone here (@chandavkl?) might’ve mentioned that once upon a time?

Is it b/c it’s in a soup? I’m trying to think if there are dim sum items that are in a soup/broth…

Eh, for me, it’s not so much appropriate vs. inappropriate. It’s really more cranky, middle-aged guy (me) shaking his fist at the universe.

If you like the dumplings at your local dim sum place, by all means, order and enjoy.

For me, this issue is also like car manufacturers calling swoopy versions of their upright SUVs “coupes.” IT’S NOT A F*CKING COUPE.

But I have no fundamental issue w/ someone who would buy and enjoy such a car. But please do NOT call it “coupe” (at least, not around me).

Edit: and siu mai are totally traditional for dim sum. BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT DUMPLINGS. :slight_smile:


I’m totally ok with a good old cranky view. I didn’t talk to my daughter for a few days when she put ketchup on a hot dog.