Our apartment building had a Christmas party a week and a half ago. It’s interesting: most people in Taiwan don’t really celebrate Christmas (public schools and offices are open on the 25th for business as usual), much less understand what it’s about. And yet they do see it as an excuse to have parties and decorate a little. The front entryway and lobby of our apartment are nicely decked out with ornaments and wreaths, and there’s a (constantly) singing Christmas tree surrounded by poinsettias and other decorations in the lobby. 

So anyway, our apartment’s party was a potluck dinner with some catered items as well. A huge tent had been set up down in the courtyard, with long tables full of food. We got there almost right on time with our fruit salad to share, and already the place was thronged with people. Someone we met who spoke English advised us not to try standing in line, but just to grab a plate, push our way toward whatever food we wanted, and to serve ourselves as fast as we could before all the good stuff was gone. After all, she said, this is Taiwan! 

Well, we were a little hesitant to do that, so we just tried to serve ourselves quickly without too much shoving. All around us people were elbowing their way in, loading their plates unrealistically high with whatever looked best, then hurrying to get out of the way of the crowd. Some people had even brought big bowls or containers and were quickly filling them with enough food to feed multiple families, then taking them back home to eat. It was amazing how fast the serving dishes emptied – there was no question of going back for seconds on much of anything except for corn soup or plain white rice. There were other events after the meal, like a free drawing for various prizes, but we hadn’t RSVPed in time to take part in that. (Last year we did, and we won a little lamp and a Kentucky Fried Chicken Christmas clock.) There was also a talent show, but it was cold down there and there weren’t enough seats anyway, so we ended up just going home to watch a Christmas movie. The PA system was so loud that we could hear the music blaring even up on the seventh floor with all doors and windows shut and our movie on. 

So, that was our memorable second Christmas in Taiwan! 

Our friends and co-workers, Dondi and Liana Peleo, invited us to their apartment building’s Christmas party last night. The party was in the form of a twelve-course Chinese banquet! The dishes were brought out one at a time – none was huge, but most were delicious, and several looked very fancy. I took pictures of most of them, so here they are.

This appetizer platter had a number of cold meats and fish, including sashimi. Floyd and I both tried some for the first time ever! It was better than I’d expected. The fish above was tasty too, although not much to go around for our table of eight. Oh well, when you have twelve courses, you don’t need more than a tiny serving of each!

This crab and rice dish was one of my favorites. See the little white things on the fake leaves around the edges of the plate? They’re sweet, glutinous globs with some kind of dark filling. I know that doesn’t sound very appetizing, but I really enjoyed them. We were surprised to have a hot pot burner on our table – partway through the meal, the waiter brought a cast iron pot full of whole crabs, mushrooms, veggies, and some other seafood in broth for us to cook ourselves.

What an impressive lobster! To his left are some little fried lobster cakes; to his right is a pile of lobster meat smothered with mayonnaise and candy sprinkles. (Not an uncommon way to eat seafood here in Taiwan.) In the foil was a very tasty pile of lamb ribs in a flavorful sauce. Another of my favorite dishes.

This dish definitely earned the prize for the most unusual food item of the evening. Can you guess? That’s right… it was snow pea and rooster testicle soup! As you can see, Floyd and Dondi and I each tried one… but only one. What was it like? Trust me, you don’t want to know.

 The final course of the evening was a typical Taiwanese dessert: a fresh fruit platter with oranges, grapes, and bellfruit. A tasty and refreshing way to end the meal.