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Mrs. Karen Loh recommends Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa.

Updated: Jan 23, 2022

Delightfully delicious, Sweet Bean Paste is a story about a dorayaki seller, Sentaro, who meets an elderly lady, Tokue, outside his shop one day asking to be hired at his shop. Seeing how advanced she was in age as well as her gnarled fingers, Sentaro was at first reluctant to hire her, doubting her ability to work. However, with much persistence and persuasion on her part, he finally did and in time to come, a deep friendship grows between them as she imparts her secret bean paste recipe to him. Still, Sentaro was always curious about Tokue’s background and where she lived, which she never revealed. When he finally learns of her past, he begins to see who she really is which eventually changes him. One of the many lessons this book has taught me is that we should never ‘judge a book by its cover’. Had Sentaro written Tokue off right from the start, he would not have gained both the secret of the best bean paste recipe and, more importantly, the life lessons she taught him. It is also a reminder that it is never too late to pursue one’s dreams in life and that if one chooses to be optimistic, one can surmount any difficulties in life. Through the unlikely friendship between a dorayaki seller, an elderly lady and a teenage girl, I have also learned that friendship bonds transcend age and life situations if one remains open to the people who may unwittingly enter one’s life, bringing with them their treasure trove of life experiences. The arduous efforts taken to perfect the bean paste have also shown me the importance of perseverance and paying attention to details-- to do all things well no matter how big or small a task. Needless to say, the mouth-watering descriptions of doriyaki-making were a huge ‘bonus’ too, whereupon I promptly went to buy a dorayaki to satiate my craving for it after reading the book!

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