A cookie made from the usual ingredients of flour, butter, sugar and vanilla and folded with a little piece of paper with ‘fortune’ written on it is our modern day fortune cookie that we find abundantly in every Chinese restaurant.
Contrary to assumption fortune cookies as we know them today are more of an American invention. In fact neither were the Chinese were in no way directly responsible for its creation nor are they found anywhere in China. However, cookies of a similar nature can be found in Japan with a considerably larger size and different ingredients in the recipe with a message folded inside.
The fortune cookie came into existence in the early twentieth century somewhere in California.
The roots of it are not known specifically, though there are several legends about it. According to one legend a Japanese American by the name of Makoto Hagiwara living in San Francisco was evoked from his job by a racist mayor, years later he was given his job back by the new mayor. That is when he created a cookie with ‘thank you’ notes slipped inside it and distributed them among all those who had supported him through his tough time.
Another legend goes about a Chinese American by the name of David Jung who lived in Los Angeles and founded the Hong Kong Noodle Company. He was very saddened by the homeless people he saw around his shop and to lift their spirits he made a cookie and slipped into them pieces of paper with quotes from the Bible inscribed on them.
Whether found in LA or San Francisco, the fortune cookie definitely has an American root. They were popularly served in Chinese restaurants sometime after the World War II. Since the Chinese cuisine does not have desserts in it traditionally, the introduction of the fortune cookie made the cuisine more interesting for the Americans who loved exotic foods.
Today we find these fortune cookies not only in Chinese restaurants but in birthday parties, weddings, baby showers, and so many more events with customized messaged folded inside. The main star of the fortune cookie is not even the cookie itself, but the ‘fortune’ placed inside.