History of the fortune cookie – how the wisdom got into the cookie
Funny messages, clever words of wisdom, philosophical quotes, predictions of the future or wedding congratulations – the messages in the fortune cookie ensure great fun and entertainment. Who doesn’t look forward to a fortune cookie being offered after their meal in a Chinese restaurant? But bit-by-bit the cookies with their words of wisdom, messages and quotes are now also being offered at many other places. At private parties, such as weddings or New Year’s Eve, at company celebrations or trade fairs for example.
It is small and crispy and the light vanilla taste characterises the delicious little pastry. But what makes the fortune cookie so special?
The fortune cookie is a little gift. Opening it and discovering the contents ensure excitement and good spirits. Conversation topics are produced immediately when you sit down with friends and family. Who has which saying?
And what suits or doesn’t?
But it’s not only the content of the delicious cookie that’s there to discover. Because the origin of the fortune cookie still hasn’t truly been revealed. Multiple myths and theories surround its origins.
Are fortune cookies from China?
Mooncake is a Chinese specialty that’s been served for many centuries already. The typical mooncake is filled with a paste made from the seeds of the lotus plant, among other ingredients, which gives the cake its special aroma. The Mongols occupied the Chinese empire in the 13th and 14th centuries. As the Mongols didn’t eat mooncake because of the lotus paste, Chinese resistance groups smuggled secret messages inside the cakes. The patriotic revolutionary, Chu Yuan-chang, dressed as a Taoist priest, travelled the land and distributed mooncakes in the occupied cities. A popular uprising was consequently coordinated, and ultimately lead to the foundation of the Ming Dynasty.
Following the successful revolt, baked-in messages in mooncakes became a tradition. However, instead of revolutionary messages, good wishes and sayings could then be found in the cakes. According to legend, today we buy Chinese fortune cookies.
Are fortune cookies from Japan?
Omikuji are found far and wide in Japan. These are paper strips with divinations written on them. The little horoscopes refer to all aspects of life, such as physical health, professional success or partnership issues and are mostly found in Shintō shrines and Buddhist temples.
A story by Shinoda Senka, illustrated by Mosai Yoshitora, appears in the 1878 book, “Moshiogusa Kinsei Kidan”. It demonstrates how Tsujiura Senbei are produced. These are crackers that correspond in shape and preparation with today’s fortune cookies. The book illustrates how the crackers are produced and small, rolled-up Omikuji are inserted into them. We might therefore assume that the true origin of the fortune cookie lies in Japan.
Are fortune cookies from the USA?
A look back to 1918 gives us scope for another story about the origins of the fortune cookie. The Chinese entrepreneur David Jung ran the Hong Kong Noodle Factory in Los Angeles and began to produce fortune cookies back then. However, David Jung lived in a neighbourhood with predominantly Japanese immigrants, which suggests that perhaps he simply transferred the idea.
Another theory also points to the USA. The Japanese immigrant Makato Hagiware ran a Japanese tea garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Sometime between 1907 and 1914 it’s said he began to offer fortune cookies with his tea. However, the fortune cookies were called “fortune tea cookies” back then. At the time the Japanese bakery, Benkyodo, was responsible for producing the cookies.
Buy Chinese fortune cookies? Or perhaps Japanese ones?
The history of the origin and spread of the fortune cookie is still unclear to this very day. Whether they are now Chinese fortune cookies, Japanese or perhaps American that you buy will probably continue to be a secret. What we can reveal is the secret behind the message in the fortune cookies.
It comes down to the message in the fortune cookie
Fortune cookies don’t just delight with their taste – that’s actually what the saying inside really does, whether they be funny sayings, philosophical quotes or sayings about the future. While before it was predominantly quotes by Confucius, the giants on antiquity and American celebrities or sentences from the Bible that were revealed inside the fortune cookies, today the messages are more and more creative. The sayings for the fortune cookies are arranged entirely customised. For weddings, trade fairs or competitions – fortune cookies can be purchased for every occasion. The messages, the colour of the fortune cookies and the packaging offer design possibilities – red, yellow, green, black or pink fortune cookies in a film and outer packaging you design yourself. What would you like?