Classic Chinese with modern flair

By GREG MORAGO Copyright 2009 Houston Chronicle
Sept. 15, 2009, 4:30PM

It's hard enough for mainstream publishing houses to get press for their cookbooks, let alone self-published cookbooks. But once in a while small-batch printings of cookbooks merit attention and The Bear and Fish Family Cookbook is a good example .

The mother-daughter team of Yabin Yu and Jialin Tian have produced a sophisticated cookbook (Yu, who lives in The Woodlands, wrote much of the text; her daughter Tian, of Yorktown, Va., photographed the recipes and designed the book) that boasts beautiful images and intricate, involved recipes that emphasize method and technique.

Both women are electrical engineers, and their keen attention to detail is evident throughout the precise, orderly and detailed work.

The book takes its name from Yu's father's family name, which means "bear" in Chinese, and her mother's family name, which is pronounced the same as "fish" in Chinese. Yu infuses the book with vivid family memories and recipes from her native Beijing; Tian, born in Tianjin, China, adds a contemporary flair with modern Asian fusion.

Yu writes that for 20 years she has wanted to write a cookbook but work got in the way. "I never gave up on the idea of writing my own family cookbook," she writes.

Retirement allowed her the time to join with her daughter to bring forth the recipes for food from the Bear and Fish families. To our good fortune.

The Bear and Fish Family Cookbook (Jayca Inc., $33.95) is available from and


Mother-daughter team publish Chinese cookbook

By David Nicholson Daily Press
Dec. 16, 2009, 6:31AM

Yabin Yu, and her daughter, Jialin Tian, have many things in common, and cooking ranks at the top of the list. Though they live thousands of miles apart — Yu in a Houston suburb and Tian in Yorktown — the two women have collaborated on "The Bear and Fish Family Cookbook," a collection of family memories and recipes.

Natives of China, they followed similar professional paths in immigrating to the United States to study and work in computer and electrical engineering. Yu first came here in 1986 as a graduate student enrolled at City University of New York. When she went to work for Pratt & Whitney in West Hartford, Conn., her then-teenage daughter came to live with her. By the time Yu had retired as a senior software engineer from Baker Hughes, a Houston oilfield services company, Tian had earned a doctorate in engineering and was working at NASA Langley Research Center.

In 2006, Yu turned her lifelong love of cooking into writing a cookbook. She recruited Tian, herself an accomplished cook, and the mother-daughter teamplunged into the project with the kind of enthusiasm they apply to everything in life. During a six-week visit to Yorktown in early 2008, Yu prepared five or six recipes a day. Tian photographed the dishes when she came home from work.

"The Bear and Fish Family Cookbook" — "bear" was the family name of Yu's father, and "fish" sounds like her mother's family name in Chinese — was published in April of this year. Most of the ingredients are available in local supermarkets, says Tian, and if not, the two women have suggested ingredients that can be substituted.

The eclectic collection of recipes — Chinese classics, family favorites and dishes they've created — comes out of the family's rich culinary tradition. Yu grew up in Beijing, but her grandparents studied in Japan and her father spent time in Paris. As a result, the family's international tastes and travels were reflected in what came out of the kitchen.

"In China, there were not so many restaurants and ready-made foods," says Yu on a recent visit to Yorktown. "Every day we would go to the grocery store to shop and buy raw products and prepare them ourselves."

Tian grew up helping her grandmother and mother in the kitchen when her grandmother used to say, "the little hands are perfect for making dumplings." In their style of Northern Chinese cooking, the meats are braised instead of stir-fried. They also prepare a lot of noodle dishes and dumplings.

For the cookbook, Tian has contributed a couple of recipes prepared sous vide, a French cooking method in which meats are sealed in an airtight pouch and poached to retain their flavors. She designed the book, and each of the 130 recipes is illustrated with one of her photographs.

The final chapter on desserts also features many of Tian's own recipes, including spun sugar and chocolate confections she learned to make in classes at the French Pastry School of Chicago. At this time of year she makes lots of cookies and candies to give to family and friends.

"The NASA people are very lucky ... they can enjoy my daughter's cooking," says Yu.


On Our Bookshelves

By Jacqueline M. Newman, Ph.D. Flavor & Fortune
Summer 2010 Vol. 17 (2)

This book's name represents meanings of the primary author's paternal and maternal names, respectively. It is a collection of family favorites, most Chinese, all simple and healthy, a few elegant, fusion, and non-Chinese ethnic dishes. She says they are all family favorites.

The pictures are lovely, the tastes terrific. Green Onion Flatbreads are crisp when turned frequently and they are very tasty. Many recipes have some pre-prep time, time to be ignored, and more time thereafter. Two such are the Oven-roasted Duck, easily doable at home with prep and then on to something else, then roast the bird for about an hour, and finally serving this delicious delight. The Braised Pork Spareribs are simply super and even simpler. Pre-boil, then when ready that day or another, cook them on the grill or in the oven (our idea) or following theirs and boil them again a mere fifteen minutes in order to savor them. We especially like them with the optional ingredient. She calls it 'red yeast rice' and you may know it as 'red wine lees.'

There are many marvelous vegetable dishes, all named simplistically—stir-fried this or that, quick to do and tasting terrific. They alone will expand your delicious healthy food repertoire. Kudos to Beijinger recipe guru Yu, and to pastry and pretty Tianjin designer Tian. Both are trained in electrical engineering and in tasting and recreating top-of-the-line terrific top-notch Chinese and Chinese-inspired great food, vegetarian or otherwise.


Bookviews by Alan Caruba

By Alan Caruba
July 13, 2009

I confess that years of reviewing have made most cookbooks look alike to me. There are always exceptions, however, and The Bear and Fish Family Cookbook by Yabin Yu and Jialin Tian ($33.95, Jacya, Inc., Yorktown, VA, large format softcover) is certainly one. The popularity of Asian cuisine is well established in America and the authors have put together 130 of their family's favorite recipes, illustrated by 130 mouth-watering full color photos, to teach readers how to prepare classic Chinese dishes that include appetizers, soup, salads, eggs, poultry, meat, seafood, vegetables, rice and noodles, desserts and pastries. Every page is an invitation to try something delicious. My late Mother who wrote cookbooks and taught haute cuisine would have loved this cookbook and been eager to try its recipes. You can learn more about it when you visit From far-off Beijing and Tianjin China, the authors, both of whom have advanced degrees in engineering, demonstrate that it is the love of food that connects the whole human family.


Rebeccas Reads

By Kam Aures
Aug. 2009

"The Bear and Fish Family Cookbook" is named as such because the author Yabin Yu's father's name means 'bear' in Chinese and her mother's name has the same pronunciation as the Chinese word for 'fish'. The work is a compilation of favorite family dishes thus it is appropriate that the name of the book reflects this fact. In the introduction, Yabin states that "The recipes emphasize simple, healthy, and elegant ethnic and fusion cuisine. Although most of our recipes were inspired by traditional Chinese dishes, some recipes were influenced by Japanese, American, French, and Italian cuisines, while some recipes are purely new creations of our own." (p. v)

I loved everything about this book! I am a Food Network and Top Chef addict and one of my favorite parts to watch is the final presentation of the food. The designs and presentations of the recipes in "The Bear and Fish Family Cookbook" are absolutely beautiful. The photographs of the food are works of art!

The recipes are printed in such a detailed format that there is no question as to how the dish is to be prepared all of the way down to turning off the stove. Another positive is that all of the ingredients seem like they are pretty easy to find. The first recipe that I tried in the book was the one for "Pork Wonton Soup". I found the soup very simple to make it had a wonderful flavor to it.

The second recipe that I tried was the "Stir-Fried Beef with Chinese Broccoli". I found this one to be easy as well and super fast to make. The longest step is marinating the beef which is 15 minutes. All of the other steps are literally 20 seconds, 40 seconds, etc. My children even asked for seconds of the dish!

There are many more recipes in the book that I can't wait to try. The two that I did make were fairly safe dishes for me, but I can't wait to take a step outside my comfort zone and try such recipes as the "Tea Eggs" and "Lotus Root Salad with Red and Green Peppers". "The Bear and Fish Family Cookbook" is one that I will keep for a very long time!


Mother, daughter team creates fusion cookbook

By Lauren Hodges The Woodlands Villager
July 13, 2010

Yabin Yu, of The Woodlands, is working with her daughter to add a DVD to their recently released cookbook, "The Bear and Fish Family Cookbook."

The comprehensive DVD will soon be sold with the cookbook and will demonstrate how to prepare the foods included in the book. Included are recipes like a sugar show piece created by daughter Jialin Tian, of Yorktown, Va. Yu said Tian learned the skill in three days at a french pastry school in Chicago. The six-foot high piece featured in the cookbook is made of all sugar and food coloring.

Tian said it combines three components: blown sugar, poured sugar to create the support and sugar ribbons used to create the flowers on the piece. Tian also did the design work and photographs for the cookbook and created their website,

The two worked back and forth through e-mail and occasional visits. Yu is retired and would usually visit Tian who works for NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

Yu hosted a cooking class this past January at Viking Cooking School at Hubbell and Hudson during the Chinese New Year and is planning to host another class next year. "The Bear and Fish Family Cookbook," has been featured in The Daily Press, Flavor and Fortune and in online book reviews. Yu also taught a class at her alma matter at The City College of New York on how to publish a cookbook for alumnae activity day and has made an appearance at Good Books in the Woods to talk about her book.

There are a total of 134 recipes in the cookbook. The recipes combine different types of fusion cooking stemming from Chinese, American, Japanese, French, Italian and Indian influences. Recipes like sous vide turkey roulade, sautéed clam with Shaohsing wine sauce; Cantonese-style moon cake, chocolate truffles, lychee ganache, scallops with orange and passion fruit sauce, braised cauliflower with Serrano ham, mini Meyer lemon scones, sweet and sour pork, pot stickers, Ma Po tofu and tea eggs can be found in the book.

"They are easy and adoptable for an American kitchen," Tian said.

She said when her and her mother lived in China they learned techniques from her grandfather who went to school in France and her great grandparents who went to a culinary arts college in Japan.

"After we came to the United States we learned a lot of cooking techniques," Tian said. "We love Italian food and learned to make some recipes of our own by combining everything."

Some of the recipes have been in their family for generations and others were invented the past couple of years. The book is available for purchase at,, and other major online book retailers. The book is published by Jayca Inc. for $33.95.


Wisconsin Bookwatch
Vol. 4, Number 8, Aug. 2009

Yabin Yu was born in Beijing, China. Jialin Tian was born in Tianjin, China. In "The Bear And Fish Family Cookbook" these two culinary enthusiasts collaborate to compile an impressive series of more than 130 recipes offering a new and fascinating approach to conventional Asian cuisine. There are dishes for every dining occasion and every course of a meal. Ranging from Deep-Fried Spring Rolls; Napa Cabbage, Bean Threads, and Meatball Soup; Baked Egg Custard with Ground Pork; and Braised Beef with Fermented Bean Paste; to Meat Stuffed Cabbage; Sweet and Sour Spareribs; Coconut Curry Shrimp; and Noodles with Peanut Butter Sauce, The step-by-step, 'kitchen cook friendly' recipes comprising "The Bear And Fish Family Cookbook" are beautifullyillustrated, and as nutritious as they are delicious! Combining an eclectic approach to Asian cuisine with contemporary innovations on traditional themes, "The Bear And Fish Family Cookbook" is a unique and highly recommended addition to personal, family, professional, and community library cookbook collections.


Woodlands woman shares family recipes

By Kim Morgan Houston Chronicle
Sept. 1, 2009, 9:12 AM

While the title might indicate otherwise, you won't find any bear recipes in this cookbook. Fish, yes. Bears, no.

The reason The Woodlands resident Yabin Yu titled her recently released book The Bear and Fish Family Cookbook is in honor of her parents.

Yu, 64, said her father's family name, Xiong, means "bear" in Chinese. Her mother's family name, Yu, is pronounced the same as "fish."

"My mom was always cooking," said Yu, who was born in Beijing, China. "We enjoyed doing it together because cooking time was also gathering time and chatting time."

Yu had been dreaming for years about putting together a cookbook of her family's favorite recipes.

Some of them are exotic sounding, like Shaohsing Wine Sauce and Zongzi, with exotic-sounding ingredients like lotus root and bamboo shoots.

You might expect to see a recipe for Peking duck, but you won't. Instead, it's an oven-roasted duck recipe.

The accompanying photo and story in the book is that of Yu's interaction with Bob and Joan Menz of Connecticut. In 1990, Yu was renting a room from them while she was working as an electrical engineer at Pratt & Whitney.

"Because they are huge fans of Peking duck, they asked me if I knew how to prepare it since I told them that I am a native Beijinger," Yu wrote in her book. "But because of its complicated procedure and the special equipment required, Peking duck was seldom made at home."

Instead, Yu's mother made a spiced, crispy, braised duck with sweet, fermented bean sauce that Yu said tasted just as good as Peking duck.

And so that's what Yu cooked for the Menz's.

"They were very impressed," Yu said. "The only complaint they had was that there wasn't enough."

Yu immigrated to the United States in 1986 as a graduate student.

She went on to earn a master's degree in electrical engineering from City University of New York.

Yu was a software engineer at Baker Hughes for sixteen years before retiring in 2006.

Her daughter, 34-year-old Virginia resident Jialin Tian, is also an engineer.

Tian, who was born in Tianjin, China, has a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering. She is a research engineer at NASA Langley Research, not to mention a photographer and a cook.

In addition to helping cook, Tian photographed all 130 recipes in the book, a task that took six weeks.

"I started cooking from as early as I can remember," Tian said. "My grandmother always asked me to help in the kitchen. I did a lot of chores like peeling potatoes and carrots, and shelling the peas.

"She used to tell me it was perfect work for little hands."

Tian didn't think it was all that fun, but she sure learned a lot.

"We were always talking about what was going on," Tian said.

"I learned a lot from my mom and grandma."

"They were my first teachers."

Tian has come a long way from only peeling potatoes.

She's the one responsible for most of the dessert and pastry section of the cookbook.

On Tian's 30th birthday, Yu gave her a surprise gift — three days at the French Pastry School in Chicago, where Tian learned "sugar art and chocolate works" with renowned pastry chefs Stephane Glacier and Jean-Pierre Wybauw.

Tian discovered that baking and cooking were an effective stress-reliever while enduring graduate school and working towards her doctorate.

Yu is still happily cooking as well, although it's been hard for her to learn to cook for only two — herself and her husband of 15 years, Richard Murphy.

"My mommy used to say 'don't waste food'," Yu said.

"So I just eat more and don't tell my husband."

Murphy will surely not mind, as he is happy to indulge Yu's hobby whenever and wherever.

"She likes to go to the grocery stores in all the countries we go to, just to see what they've got," Murphy said.