[Note: After this post, the blog will go on hiatus for about 2 weeks ~ I'll be eating some very exotic food in Yunnan, China]
of this blog should know I love all things dim sum. If you're one and
you don't you really need a checkup on your observation powers.
Anyways, today in 'Eat my Lingo!', I want to tell you what the term 'dim sum' really means -- at least to some. Not trying to cry a big wolf here, but I think there's a morbid side of dim sum you may want to know.
what you're thinking: Right dude, like we need you so much to teach us this. We
all know perfectly well what dim sum is. Chinese style snacks to go
along with Chinese tea when we 'yum cha,' right? And it literally means
'touch your heart' or 'heart's delight,' right?' Well, yes and no. I'm not trying
to blow my own trumpet here by saying you're all wrong, but I think I
need to point out to you that there's a wild side of dim sum that
somehow means exactly the opposite. A version of the dim sum story that
will change the way you see the dim sum you knew...
During the pre-modern era in China, the authorities decreed different grades of mutilation to be meted out to condemned prisoners. Being strung up was one and dying by guillotine was another, while the worst form of death was by "Lingchi". Although it may appear that the guillotine should rank higher in the first two, most felons actually preferred to hang themselves to death to beheading. In fact, death by hanging is lyrically labeled as a "mercy" death 賜自縊 since the Chinese vastly preferred to die with the body intact.
cruelest sentence is the infamous "death by a thousand cuts," where the
condemned is sentenced to be sliced alive piece by piece with a sharp
cleaver. This is called Ling-chi 凌遲 in Chinese, where ling means humiliation and chi
putting off -- a perfect reflection of the inhuman
mutilation. It goes without saying that this is the most painful way to
Wax and wane, relatives or friends of the unlucky prisoner condemned to ling-chi hit upon the idea of bribing the torturer so that he'd kill the condemned discreetly before the gnawing process began. The bribed torturers would then end the executee's life first with a stab to the heart, the most vital organ of a body. This surreptitious coup de grace was simply but effectively called 'point to the heart' -- dim sum in Chinese. This is the reason why Beijing locals in the old days never called dim sum as we do nowadays but as 'gao dian' 糕點 or 'bo bo' 餑餑.
This is also why the tip of the cleaver be so sharp, just so you may want to know.