Fortune cookies are as much a part of the standard American Chinese meal as egg rolls. Like many Chinese restaurant menu favorites, fortune cookies are an American invention. The fortune cookie’s history has never been confirmed, but there are a few rumors that speculate how it came to be.
One story claims that David Jung, a Chinese immigrant living in Los Angeles and founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company, invented the cookie in 1918. Concerned about the poor he saw wandering near his shop, he created the cookie and passed them out for free on the streets. Each cookie contained a strip of paper with an inspirational Bible scripture on it, written for Jung by a Presbyterian minister.
Another story claims that the fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco by a Japanese immigrant named Makoto Hagiwara. Hagiwara was a gardener who designed the famous Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. An anti-Japanese mayor fired him from his job around the turn of the century, but later a new mayor reinstated him. Grateful to those who had stood by him during his period of hardship, Hagiwara created a cookie in 1914 that included a thank you note inside. He passed them out at the Japanese Tea Garden, and began serving them there regularly. In 1915, they were displayed at San Francisco’s world fair (source). To this day, it is still disputed which of these stories is the truth.
Today, fortune cookies are given at the end of almost every meal served in a Chinese restaurant, or included in your takeout order. Most people don’t care much for the taste of fortune cookies — the majority of the cookie’s appeal lies in the paper hidden inside it! Early fortunes included quotes from the Bible, or sayings from Confucius, Aesop, and even Ben Franklin. More modern fortunes include suggested “lucky” lottery numbers, smiley faces, and sage (sometimes silly) advice.
If you’re in the mood for a fortune cookie or delicious Chinese food, come to Szechuan House! We promise the tastiest Chinese cuisine in Houston, with all the spicy flavors of the Sichuan province. And just in case you were wondering… yes, a fortune cookie is included with your meal!