Bernice Zhao

Whenever springtime rolled around in Shanghai, the words “road trip” hung in the air in my household. We would pick a spontaneous destination, hastily throw our bags into the trunk of the car and zoom off while jamming to The Carpenters’ “when I was young, I would listen to the radio.” With the windows down, I lay sprawled on the backseat like a sloth, listening to the wind muffle our family-favorite oldies. The mention of spring never fails to bring me back to that moment.

For the Chinese, yi nián zhi jì zàiyú chin*, meaning the whole year’s work depends on one’s planning in the spring. For my family, that meant kick-starting the year right with road trips: from boating the Jing-Hang Grand Canal — the oldest canal in the world — in Hangzhou, to sipping the faintly sweet waters of the Sandie Waterfall in Lu Mountain, to dipping our toes into the Thousand Island Lake in Zhejiang.

Every year, without fail, we set out at the cherry blossoms’ blooming — the first sign of spring. And every year, without fail, I was tasked with packing homemade snacks for the road.

There are three rules I abided by when whipping up road trip bites: They must be easy to carry, energy-boosting and, of course, finger-licking good. To celebrate the wake of spring in New Haven, here are three original recipes that fulfill all three criteria — perfect for a picnic, a road trip, or your next Amtrak ride to New York. So, stop sulking indoors; soak up the sun while munching on these bites instead!

Overnight Oats


Oats Mixture:

2 cups uncooked oats

1 cup coconut yogurt

4 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons milk


Nut Topping:

A handful chopped cashews

A handful chopped walnuts

A couple of un-chopped walnuts


Berry Topping:

A handful of raisins

A handful of blueberries



1.    Mix uncooked oats, yogurt, honey and milk together in a bowl.

2.    Cover and refrigerate overnight.

3.    After refrigeration, fill jars to 1/2 full with oats and place toppings.

4.    Fill jars full with oats and place toppings again.


Vanilla Pudding


4 cups whole milk

1/2 sugar

4 egg yolks

1 vanilla bean

1/3 cup cornstarch



1.    Heat up the milk in a saucepan on medium heat until steaming.

2.    In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, egg yolks and cornstarch.

3.    Gradually add the bowl mixture to the hot milk; scrape off vanilla bean seeds and add them into the milk mixture.

4.    Remove saucepan from heat and let it cool for around 10 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent a skin from forming on the surface.

5.    Place into a container and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until cooled and thickened (around 5 hours).

6.    Top with berries or toppings of your choice.


Rice Balls


2 cups cooked rice

2 tablespoons sushi vinegar

1 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 tablespoon sesame oil

1 green pepper

1 carrot

2 eggs

3/4 cups chickpeas

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons pepper

30 cm by 30 cm plastic wrap



1. In a large bowl, add sushi vinegar to cooked rice; let it sit aside for 5 minutes.

2. Dice green pepper and carrot into tiny cubes.

3. Add chickpeas into the food processor; blend thoroughly.

4. Whisk 2 eggs in a bowl and fry them in a non-stick pan; flatten it out and do to not scramble.

5. Remove the egg from pan when it becomes solid and leave to cool. Cut into the shape of a rectangle, and dice the cut-off edges. Cut the rectangle egg-crepe into strips with a width of 2.5 cm.

6. Add the green pepper, carrot, chickpeas and fried eggs into the rice mixture; add in olive oil, sesame oil, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.

7. Place 4 tablespoons of rice mixture onto a plastic wrap and shape into a ball by rolling it between your hands.

8. Remove plastic wrap, and place rice balls onto a plate; place egg strips onto the rice balls.

* “yi nián zhi jì zàiyú chin” — The pinyin for yi, zhi and chin are in first tones.

Bernice Zhao |