These ‘bubble wontons’ burst in your mouth

Jul 17, 2020

Bubble wontons are a specialty of Suzhou, a city in eastern China. They’re called that because they float like bubbles and contain so little meat that soup bursts out when you bite into one.

Imagine a wonton with so little meat that it pops in your mouth when you eat it.

The bubble wonton—so called because it contains mostly air—is a specialty of Suzhou in eastern China.

Unlike conventional wontons filled with pork, bubble wontons are mostly pockets of air.
Unlike conventional wontons filled with pork, bubble wontons are mostly pockets of air. / Photo: Shirley Xu

Served in a broth made with chicken and pork bones, the wontons float to the top like bubbles, and their air pockets fill up with soup, creating a burst of flavor when you bite into them.

With just a small dab of minced pork, the wonton has been derided in China for its ungenerous portion size. But there’s a reason for why they’re so small.

“Our food is just more delicate and refined.”

Chen Gang, owner of Chenji Wonton

“It’s all about the texture,” says Chen Gang, the owner of Chenji Wonton in Suzhou.

A bowl of bubble wontons at Chenji Wonton.
A bowl of bubble wontons at Chenji Wonton. / Photo: Shirley Xu

To appreciate the bubble wonton is like savoring the al dente shell of a well-cooked ravioli. What sets the bubble wonton apart is the texture of the wrappers, which are so thin that you can actually see through it.

(Read more: How a deep-fried wonton became Australia’s national snack)

Chen’s shop specializes in bubble wonton. Every day, they make about 4,000 wontons, and a bowl of one—with around 20 wontons a pop—sells for just 85 cents.

His shop became popular after word got out that Hong Kong actress Carina Lau, who used to live near the restaurant, would frequently stop by for a bowl of wonton soup.

The bubble wonton wrapper is so thin that you can see through it.
The bubble wonton wrapper is so thin that you can see through it. / Photo: Shirley Xu

The amount of meat in the wonton is minuscule, but Chen says that’s just part of the appeal.

“Our food is just more delicate and refined,” Chen says, when asked whether customers complain about the small amount of meat.

Street food

Credit

Producer: Clarissa Wei

Narrator: Nicholas Ko

Videographer: Shirley Xu

Editor: Joel Roche