Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa Book Review – Plus How to Make Dorayaki!

Earlier this year I came across a book on Goodreads titled Sweet Bean Paste which was recently translated into English. I added it right away and then received a tip from a Goodread’s friend and fellow book blogger Evelina@ Avalinahsbooks that it was available on Edelweiss. Luckily, I was approved for it, because it turned out to be one of my favorite books of the year.


Sweet Bean Paste

by Durian SukegawaAlison Watts


The story begins with Sentaro, a man who was previously in jail and is now working in a little confectionary shop to pay off some debt. He makes a Japanese sweet called ‘dorayaki’ every day but puts no heart into it at all. He works in a depressed part of town and feels quite depressed himself. He doesn’t have much appreciation for life while spending most evenings drowning his sorrows with alcohol. He’s always wanted to be a writer, but just doesn’t know what his purpose in life is at this point.

One day, he puts an ad out for a helper. A little old lady named Tokue comes to visit Sentaro and begins to chat about his red bean paste. She wants the job, but Sentaro is hesitant to hire her because there are differences in Tokue’s appearance which set hjer apart from other people. Her fingers are disfigured, but after Sentaro tastes some of her sweet bean paste, he begins to question in his mind how he can hire her without offending customers because her sweet, rich bean paste is like nothing he’s ever tasted, and he has to learn how to make it. As time moves on, Tokue becomes part of the shop and enjoys meeting with some of the customers until a rumor starts and people become afraid of something they don’t truly understand.

I loved the characters and cherished Tokue’s wisdom. Besides teaching Sentaro how to make the best bean paste, she helps him on his journey of self-discovery and teaches him how to truly listen and to be patient.

“We were born in order to see and listen to the world.”

Reading about Tokue’s harrowing past was difficult, yet the unlikely friendships formed between this small group of people is heartwarming. Each of them has something to give one another and as they connect, Sentaro finally begins to see the light from Tokue’s teachings.

After reading the book, I sat for awhile and reflected on Tokue’s suggestions to Sentaro and found the book very educational because of it–from her messages about listening and seeing to also learning about Hansen’s disease in Japanese history. I absolutely adored reading this wonderful book and appreciated the author’s note at the end which explains the author’s experience with Hansen’s disease and the inspiration for this story. This is a book anyone can enjoy and I highly recommend it. My rating is 5*****

I’d like to thank Edelweiss, the publisher, and the author for sharing a copy of this book with me in exchange for an honest review.

5 Sterne

Find this book on Amazon and Goodreads

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (November 14, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1786071959
  • ISBN-13: 978-1786071958

I was so excited to learn that this book has been adapted to film and it’s available on Netflix. I haven’t watched it yet, but plan to this weekend and I’ll share my thoughts after. Here’s the trailer…

All this reading about Dorayaki and sweet bean paste really sparked my interest. I’d never had dorayaki or even heard of it. I went straight to Amazon and ordered some adzuki beans so that I could experience this Japanese treat with my family.


What is dorayaki?

Dorayaki (どら焼き, どらやき, 銅鑼焼き, ドラ焼き) is a type of Japanese confection, а red-bean pancake which consists of two small pancake-like patties made from castella wrapped around a filling of sweet Azuki red bean paste.

Making Dorayaki

The first thing I did was soak the beans. I put about a cup of adzuki beans in a jar with water and let them soak overnight. I rinsed them once before and then again in the morning.


I decided to make the paste first. I started by putting the beans in the pan with water to cover and brought them to a boil and boiled them for a few minutes. Then I rinsed them completely. I put them back in the pan again with plenty of water to cover and brought them to a boil again. This time, I let them simmer for about an hour until they were soft.


Once they were soft, I drained the water and blended them up in my Vitamix.


I blended them until fairly smooth.

Next, I added the paste back to the pan with a heaping half cup of sugar. I stirred it and cooked this down for about five minutes on low heat.


I ended up with a nice smooth paste that was thick and not runny.



Now it’s time for the cakes!

Here’s the recipe I used:

4 large eggs
2/3 cups sugar
2 TB honey
1 1/3 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 TB water
1 tsp or so of vegetable or other cooking oil


Add 4 eggs to a bowl with the sugar and honey. Whisk until smooth.


Add the sifted flour and baking powder and whisk until smooth.


After whisking, let it sit for about ten minutes and then add in the water. Whisk it in until smooth again and you’re ready to start cooking the pancakes.

Heat your pan up and oil it. Wipe all the excess oil out of the pan. Drop your batter, about 3 TB per cake. We used an ice cream scoop.


Once the bubbles have formed and have started to pop, flip the cake over.


Cook it for about 30 seconds more. Transfer to a plate and add your filling.


Seal the edges by pressing lightly.


 We did a few with whipped cream as well.


These were quite good and my kids and I enjoyed the experience of making fresh Dorayaki! Looking back there are a few things I learned. 

1- Cast iron didn’t work well for the cakes and butter simply burned. I ended up switching to stainless and using just oil. The cakes turned a beautiful brown this way.

2- My bean paste was a little too smooth so, next time I’ll use a processor.

3- I’ll try Canadian beans like Tokue suggests in the book as well. It had a slightly bitter taste to it and maybe this might help. I’ll also do the steaming method she teaches Sentaro in the book and adding more water to the boiling process.

4- I hope to find a dorayaki recipe that uses a sugar syrup rather than adding straight sugar to the bean paste.

Thanks for reading my review of Sweet Bean Paste! Have you read this book? Have you ever had Dorayaki? Please feel free to leave comments and suggestions below.

34 thoughts on “Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa Book Review – Plus How to Make Dorayaki!

  1. Nel

    Man I love your food and a book series! I’ve actually had bean paste but it was in a slightly frozen form in mochi balls. Have you ever had mochi? It’s pretty great. Thanks for such a great share! It was so educational and now I’m going to go onto Netflix and check it out as well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Nel! I couldn’t wait to try this. It was surprisingly good, but I think I need to follow Tokue’s guidelines next time, haha.

      I’ve never had mochi before. Are they balls of the bean paste or something? I’ll have to look into it. I have lots of beans left to try more recipes! ❤

      Thanks for checking out the post. You have to let me know what you think if you watch the movie. We're watching it tonight and I cannot wait. I'm so excited to learn that it's a movie! Have a great weekend, Nel! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I thought I saw something like that today when I was looking around on Google. When you make the paste, the more you cook it, the harder it gets. So fun! I’ll see if I can try it out. It has to be good with vanilla ice cream, right? Yummy 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. Mischenko I LOVED this review… I LOVED the recipe and that you tried to make it from the book! It combines such fun things… and it being Asian too I was totally HOOKED on reading it and making this recipe!! I did a post with a recipe a couple weeks ago and I was thinking about you and your fun recipe posts when I did so… I don’t anticipate copying you and doing that often but I wanted you to know you are inspiring!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Dani! You are the sweetest and your comments are so flattering. I hope you can try this recipe and check out the book. I just watched the movie last night–wow!

      🖤😉💕 I’m so glad we connected. 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  3. David R. Dowdy

    Wow! This is delicious reading. I’ve never had one, but I can just about imagine a dorayaki tastes yummy! Books that have great and interesting food in the narrative are cool.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s pretty good, David! I know I made it wrong though. Looking back now, Like Sentaro, mine had a hint of burned taste. I want to try it again by using a sugar syrup. We watched the movie last night and loved it. Just loved it. This was such a wonderful experience. 💕 I hope you can check it out!


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  5. Noriko

    I looooove Dorayaki ❤ (Yes, Dorayaki is from Japan and it's one of my favorite japanese traditional desserts) But wow, did you actually make dorayaki yourself? impressive!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Noriko, I was thinking about you when we were making it! We did make it and it was so much fun. I wanted my kids to experience it, but I need to practice. Our bean paste wasn’t super delicious and I think I’d like to try Tokue’s suggestions to see if it makes a difference. I know it was way too smooth.

      I loved this book. We watched the movie last night and I was an emotional bawl bag. This story just really touched me. It’s on Netflix, have you seen it? Not everyone in my family liked it, but it really hit me. The book was more detailed of course, so I would recommend the book before the movie, but I loved the cast and it evoked so much emotion for me because the actors were exactly what I imagined when reading the book. My only issue was that they left out a few details in the movie I thought were important.

      Anyhow, do you make dorayaki? 💜😁

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Noriko

        Hi, Mischenko! Awww, did you think about me while making Dorayaki? how sweet!!
        As for bean paste, I think what you made is close to what we call ‘koshi An’ which means smooth bean paste with no grain in it. Let me check the recipe for bean paste for Dora yaki recipe for you and I will message you later!

        Oh no, I have never made dorayaki from scratch!! I’m not as good a cook as you are! looool

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s interesting! Well, after watching the movie, I learned that the paste Tokue made was “course” and you could still see beans in it. I followed a recipe online that said to process it and that probably wasn’t a good idea. We must try again though because ours just wasn’t sweet enough. I’d like to try the cream cheese filling too!

          I bet you’re an awesome cook, Noriko! I am very interested in learning more about your foods. This was such a fascinating experience. 💞😊 Thanks for checking on a recipe! 😽

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Love this post! This sounds heavenly, and I am impressed with you, as always! I definitely need to read this book and watch the movie on Netflix. I also loved the soup recipe from Wednesday. I need to make that and great idea to drink it for breakfast! I just might leave out the onions and leeks, which I’m sure are a big part of the benefit. I like the flavor ok, but the scent is not good for me and it lingers in my house forever. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Jennifer!! You are so kind and I look forward to hearing your heartwarming comments. You’ll have to let me know if you watch the movie.

      The soup is really good! I don’t know what it would taste like without the onions. I think the flavoring really comes from the garlic and onions, but it might still be good. You could just use leeks and see if you like it. Do let me know if you try it! ❤ 🙂


  7. I also really loved this book 🙂 it was such a quick read, and so warm, so sweet. Absolutely wonderful!

    Thanks for mentioning me 🙂 I posted my review today too.

    It’s a film! That is super cute. It’s too bad our Netflix has a severely restricted regional setting, so it’s probably not accessible… But from what I can see in that trailer, Sentaro is just how I imagined him 😀

    You actually ordered the beans even!! I have made bean paste before, years ago, but since adzuki beans are very hard to obtain where I live, I just used regular kidney beans. I bet it lost half the taste. However, I didn’t have a blender, so I did it all by hand 😀 (I removed the skins though). It was a true chore. The result was interesting, although I bet it was very different because of the different beans. But still an interesting experience 🙂 it’s really cool that you tried the recipe though! I have never tried dorayaki myself (region, again), so I am super curious 🙂 but I know that it’s just not for me… That one time of making the bean paste by hand (for maybe 4 hours…) was enough for a lifetime 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks so much! I’m sorry that you probably can’t get the movie on Netflix. You’ll have to let me know if you end up watching it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. I truly loved the book so much more, but it was nice because all the actors were exactly what I imagined when reading the book.

    I might have to try the paste with kidney beans! I wonder what the big difference is, really? The beans were a little expensive, but I hope to use them in some other recipes. I am amazed at how much patience and work go into Dorayaki!

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with me. ❤


  9. Pingback: Sweet Japanese Food Culture… Bean Paste with a Hidden History | Perspective of a Writer

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