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Wonton is one of the traditional Chinese cooked wheaten foods that originated in the northern China. It is also referred to as chāo shǒu or yun tun in some regions. Records show that the dish is 1,300 years old, but it still remains popular throughout China and has become one of the main breakfasts in people's daily life.

Origin of Wonton

The tradition goes that during the Han dynasty, the northern Huns often invaded the frontier, among which the most cruel and ferocious tribes were the "Hun" and "Tun". People lived in torment and hated the two tribes deeply, so they made a kind of dumpling with meat inside and called the food "wonton" (Chinese pronunciation as "huntun" meaning the combination of "Hun" and "Tun"). They used wonton as the symbol of the two tribes and boiled it in hot water to express their anger. Since the day they invented this food was the winter solstice, the tradition is to eat the wonton at winter solstice, a custom that still survives today. 

Other legends said that around the Spring and Autumn Period, there was a great beauty called Xi Shi. She invented that food to please the king of the State of Wu. When the king asked the name of the snack, she named it "wonton", a homonym for "being ignorant and dumb".

Cuisines of Wonton

Wonton is a dish eaten in northern and southern China but there are a few differences between the two. Wonton in northern China generally has more fillings and its outer wrapping is a little thicker. Minced pork serves as the main filling. While under the influence of dietary customs from the south, the northern wonton lost some weight with a thinner wrap and less filling. It is generally served in a soup with minced coriander, small dried shrimp, laver and soy. 

However, the cuisine of wonton in southern China is much more varied. The ingredients of the soup are generally composed of minced spring onions, pepper and a small grain of lard. In Sichuan where people enjoy spicy flavours, wonton is often called "chāo shǒu" and served in a sesame paste with chili oil sauce as a dish called "red oil wonton". In Jinhua, Zhejiang province, tofu is the main filling of wonton and the shape is relatively larger. In Guangdong, people usually cook wonton with thin noodles to make wonton noodles with the main filling being shrimp. In Guangdong, wonton is commonly referred to as "yun tun" by the local people.