Perfect weather to plan a picnic

The beautiful, breezy days of spring may be fleeting in Shanghai, but picnic is no doubt one of the best ways to enjoy the season of revival.

The beautiful, breezy days of spring may be fleeting in Shanghai, but picnic is no doubt one of the best ways to enjoy the season of revival.

In China, schools often organize spring trips and students would bring all kinds of food and snacks to enjoy at the destination. For adults, spring picnics are about beautiful locations, delicious food and spending good times with friends and family.

Amid the unstopping rain, there are still sunny days in Shanghai, don’t miss out the opportunity to enjoy good food and time outdoors.

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Spring is the best season to host picnics in beautiful parks.

Fresh and fun

For a picture-perfect picnic, one only needs a straw basket, a large checkered blanket, vibrant napkins and dishes made with the freshest spring produce.

Various kinds of dips and sauces, from hummus to guacamole, are easy and delicious foods to bring on a picnic.

They can be packed in sealed containers alongside potato chips, toasted bread, tortilla chips or healthier options such as celery and carrot sticks.

A spinach dip (or with artichokes) is especially fitting for a spring picnic, and it’s not difficult to make from scratch with frozen spinach (and artichoke hearts), cream cheese, grated parmesan, mayonnaise and seasoning.

Mason jars are versatile containers that can hold food and drink. For a creative spin and way to enjoy different flavors and textures at the same time, try layering dip in jars by arranging ingredients such as salsa, guacamole with cheese and sour cream one after another.

If you plan to bring sandwiches and salads to a picnic, prepare ingredients such as bread, ham, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumber, basil and dressings in advance and pack them neatly in containers, then at the picnic, everyone can customize their own servings conveniently. It also saves the trouble of preparing different foods for different people.

Or to make it simple, pack the salads in mason jars in advance and enjoy directly at the picnic.Spring is the season to enjoy artichokes. The whole vegetable may look difficult to prepare, but for picnics, it can be steamed or boiled, then the fleshy base can be enjoyed directly by pulling off each scale and dipping in your sauce of choice.

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Sandwiches are easy to pack for picnics.

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A spinach dip (or with artichokes) is a great appetizer for sharing. 

Sometimes, cold dishes are not enough for a perfect picnic brunch and hot entrees would elevate the experience by making it more like a complete meal.

Warm soups such as pumpkin, baked potato and spring greens soups can be packed for picnics, so can different kinds of stir-fries with ingredients that can’t become soggy easily, or more complex dishes like mushrooms and peppers stuffed with minced meat.

For picnics, foods with crispy skin should be avoided because it would soften in sealed containers.

In recent years, self-heated instant meals have grown vastly popular in China. The trend started with the instant Sichuan hotpots, a genius invention that cooks a serving of hotpot vegetables and meats with just one bottle of water in under 15 minutes.

Inspired by military ready-to-eat meals, a small heater pack consisting of quicklime, sodium carbonate, calcined diatomite, iron powder, aluminum powder, coke powder, activated carbon and salt can produce heat up to 150 degrees Celsius when encountering water and steam-cook the food quickly.

The method was soon applied to many other kinds of Chinese dishes — noodles, rice with stir-fries, soups and even barbeque.

King of Kings is a traditional Chinese brand specializing in sausages and cured meats. It has created a self-heated clay pot rice with slices of cured sausages. The whole package features 40 grams of sausage, 138 grams of rice, 30 grams of spicy radish and 15 grams of special soy sauce. In 15 minutes, the heater pack can cook the rice fully and present a delicious bowl of hot clay pot rice — without the clay pot.

For packed staple dishes, try avoid starchy dishes such as pasta or noodles because they would stick together very quickly.

The Japanese onigiri, which are nori wrapped rice balls with fillings and classic Japanese bento (lunchbox) dish, are very portable and fulfilling.

Self-heated claypot rice with cured sausages.

The refreshments

Fresh and crisp drinks are very fitting for spring picnics — sparkling wine, fruit punch and sodas.

Chinese rice wine is a sweet drink with low alcoholic content, traditionally in only plain and osmanthus flower flavors. Recently, a sparkling version of Chinese rice wine from the brand良凉 (Liangliang) has become popular.

It’s sweet, refreshing and fizzy with a hint of citrus and rice fragrances.

Because rice wines are very cheap beverages, the sparkling version is also much affordable than sparkling wine — a 520ml bottle retails at 58 yuan (US$8.6).

It has an alcohol content of just 5 percent.

Sparkling rice wine

Various fruit wines with flavors of plum, peach and melon are also ideal for picnics.

A healthy beverage for picnics is water flavored with fresh lemon slices, mint, cucumber or strawberries. These low-calorie detox waters are not only appetizing, but also refreshing and can be paired with all kinds of foods.

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Fruit punch

Something sweet

No picnic is complete without delicious desserts to brighten the mood.

Fruit platters are a must when it comes to putting together a picnic. Combining seasonal fruits such as melons, grapes, berries, pineapples and more to serve to the party after savory dishes is a great way to freshen up the palate.

You can also fill mason jars with sweet treats like sponge cake, cookie crumble, mousse, peanut butter and jam to make a parfait or trifle, a hassle-free way to indulge in desserts in the great outdoors as the delicate cakes can break up or lose their shape on the way.

Many classic desserts can be adapted to dessert-in-jars, like layering crackers, chocolate pudding, marshmallow creme and toasted marshmallow to create a special s’mores, or fill the jars with red velvet cakes and cream cheese frosting.

Ice cream is also great to share with friends and family, it just needs an insulated cool box with ice packs so the ice cream can be kept frozen for several hours.

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Desserts layered in a jar.

Location

With great scenery and better air, picnics in local parks are always the classic choice. Here are some top destinations for having picnics in Shanghai.

Gongqing Forest Park

Gongqing Forest Park in the northern part of Shanghai is a wonderland with lots of grass and plants. Families will bring tents to camp on the lawn and set up picnics. It’s not so far from downtown and outdoor barbeque space is also available.

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Gongqing Forest Park

Sheshan National Forest Park

This park outside the city is a beautiful place for a day trip and picnic. There are more than 20 spots and attractions across the park, including an observatory and the Mariana Basilica.

Dishui Lake

Dishui Lake is a large artificial lake in Nanhui, in the Pudong New Area. Although the location is quite remote, there are good facilities by the lakeside, including picnic areas. It’s always nice to take a walk by the lake and enjoy the spring breeze.

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Dishui Lake

Dianshan Lake

Dianshan Lake is an oxygen bar with lawns and excellent views. Many people go there on the weekend to enjoy picnics by the lake and see the area’s historic and cultural relics.

Gucun Park

This large suburban forest park located in Baoshan District is reachable by Metro. The park is most known for its cherry blossoms, and has kept some of the original lakes of the village. There are spots for picnics as well as outdoor barbeque.

From March 15 to April 15, Gucun Park hosts the annual cherry blossom festival.

A picnic checklist

Food and drinks

Cardigans or blankets (in case the temperature drops)

A blanket to set up the picnic

Large umbrella, sunglasses and sunscreen

Bug prevention

Trash bags

Bluetooth speaker

Scissors and knives

Bottle opener

Insulated box and ice packs

Cups, plates, bowls and cutlery

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