Much to most people’s surprise, the infamous and much loved fortune cookie didn’t actually originate in China, like many assume. Fortune cookies are actually an American invention, originating in California. I’ll give you a minute to let that sink in…
There’s been many theories and myths that surround the origin of the sweet biscuit, all around who invented it, where it really came from, when it came to be, and so forth. This became so heavily debated that in 1983, there was a mock trial held in San Francisco to determine it’s true origins.
The first myth is that a Japanese immigrant named Makoto Hagiwara invented the cookie in San Francisco. Hagiwara was a keen gardener until an anti-Japanese mayor fired him from his job around the turn of the last century. In 1914, to show his appreciation to friends that supported him during the time, he made a cookie and placed a thank you note inside each one. After sharing them around he began serving them regularly at the Japanese Tea Garden.
A chinese immigrant named David Jung, who founded the Hong Kong Noodle Company whilst living in Los Angeles supposedly invented the cookie in 1918. Jung was concerned for the poor people he saw on the streets near his shop. Because of this, he created the cookie and passed them out for free on the streets. Each of the cookies contained a strip of paper with a message from the Bible written on it.
In the early 1900s in San Francisco, a plan was formed to transform Chinatown from a ghetto into a popular tourist attraction. Chinatown promised tourists a true Orinetal experience. The city promoted using Chinese decorations, pageantry and architecture. This apparently increased tourism which led to the invention of the fortune cookie to fill the need of a dessert item. To satisfy the tourists’ desire for a dessert, a worker in San Francisco’s Kay Heong Noodle Factory invented a plain flat cookie later in the 1930s. This cookie, whilst still warm was folded around a small piece of paper that had a hand-written prediction or Chinese wisdom.