Chinese cuisine

Chinese fortune cookies are of Japanese origin and most popular in America

At least 3 billion fortune cookies are made each year on average, with the majority produced in the United States. These golden cookies made with flour, sugar, vanilla essence, butter and oil are very popular in Chinese restaurants around the world. He is, though mysteriously absent from the very country he is supposed to come from, China. It’s probably because fortune cookies are actually Japanese, or so they claim.

We talked a lot about the fortune cookie. When opened, fortune seekers encounter a vague prophecy or confusing number; some even include cryptic Chinese sayings, complete with translations. Some see it as a way to get a quick glimpse into the future, while others eat a fortune cookie for the sole purpose of satisfying a dessert craving.

Either way, the fortune cookie is said to have been introduced by a Japanese immigrant to the United States – Makoto Hagiwara, a California-based landscape architect, with a thank-you note hidden inside.

A questionable past

Makoto Hagiwara of the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco is said to have been the first person in the United States to serve the first fortune cookie
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Caroline Culler

After being fired by an anti-Japanese mayor and then reinstated by a new mayor, Hagiwara is said to have made the very first batch of fortune cookies during the 1900s. In gratitude to those who supported him during difficult times, Hagiwara served these cookies.

“My family introduced confectionery to the Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco, and I believe my relative changed the flavor to make it sweet…As my family was from the nobility, they did not consider this invention and the introduction fortune cookie only as a nice refreshment to enjoy while walking around the garden and having fun,” Hagiwara’s great-great-grandson, Erik Hagiwara-Nagata, explained in a 2008 blog post. .

However, not many people agree with this theory of the fortune cookie’s past. Many claim that it was David Jung, a Chinese immigrant, who founded the Hong Kong Noodle Company while living in Los Angeles, who invented the cookie in 1918. It is believed that Jung was concerned about the poor who could not not afford meals, so he created a cookie and hid a strip of inspirational verses written for Jung by a Presbyterian minister.

Interestingly, Yasuko Nakamachi, a Japanese researcher, who said the fortune cookie was mentioned in a Japanese cookbook 30 years before Hagiwara and Jung’s claims were made, supports both of these theories. The plot thickens….

According to, “Nakamachi has found compelling evidence that traces the cookie’s origins to Japan, including an 1878 book (Moshiogusa Kinsei Kidan) about an apprentice at a senbei store (essentially, a bakery). In the book, the apprentice makes tsujiura senbei, or “firecrackers of fortune”. Thus, these “crackers” appeared in Japan nearly 30 years before Japanese and Chinese immigrants in California claimed to have invented them.

While the origins of this dish remain a mystery, aren’t you curious how the fortune is placed inside the cookie?

Added “fortune” in fortune cookies

fortune cookies

Traditionally fortunes were phrases about life, as written by Confucius
Image credit: Pixabay

Fortune cookies often come at the end of a meal in a Chinese restaurant, and very rarely Japanese. Traditionally, fortunes were phrases about life, as written by Confucius, who was a famous Chinese philosopher from the 6th century BC. However, today it’s turned into a more relevant strip of paper that often contains tips, quotes, and even lottery numbers.

The addition of “fortune” relies solely on one ingredient, which is sugar. Fortune cookie dough Fortune cookie dough is usually made with sugar, flour, water and eggs (optional). When hot, the dough is flexible and can be molded into many shapes. The dough is rolled into palm-sized balls, which are then rolled and flattened.

The strip of paper is folded and placed in the center of the dough and the dough is folded in half, giving the impression of a semicircle. The tips of the semicircle are then brought together, after which it is left to cool. Once cooled, the sugar in the batter hardens into a clean, crispy and shiny cookie.

fortune cookies

Automated fortune cookie machines, produce a minimum of 200 kilograms of fortune cookies per hour
Image Credit: Meritt Thomas/

While it was a labor-intensive process when it was introduced, the development of technology has paved the way for automated fortune cookie machines, which produce a minimum of 200 kilograms of fortune cookies per hour.

Today, fortune cookies are an integral part of Asian-American cuisine and have seeped into popular culture as well. People around the world can even personalize your fortune cookie note and gift it to a loved one, giving them a more meaningful end of meal.

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