Fortune cookies are a wonderful little treat that has become a traditional dessert after dining on Asian cuisine. You break the cookie in half to reveal a slip of paper inside that has your fortune written on it. The cookie itself is a crunchy piece of pastry with a light, subtle flavor.
Contrary to popular belief, the fortune cookie originated in America. In fact, there are a lot of myths and urban legends surrounding the use of these magical desserts. Read on to learn more about the history of the fortune cookie.
Who Invented the Fortune Cookie?
In 1906, a Japanese confectionery store in San Francisco, called Benkyodo, started supplying fortune cookies to Makoto Hagiwara, owner of the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. The owner of Benkyodo was named Suyeichi.
As proof of this claim, Suyeichi’s grandson has the old skillet molds, called sembei iron kata, that the cookies were made with. Some of them are engraved with the Japanese Tea Garden emblem. Benkyodo supplied fortune cookies to the Tea Garden until World War II. At that time, his idea was stolen by a businessman who began selling his version of fortune cookies to Chinese restaurants all over America.
The Culture and Tradition of Fortune Cookies
In Kyoto, there are a few family-owned bakeries that still practice the original way of making the fortune cookie. They are less sweet and quite brown in color. Miso and sesame make up the flavor of the traditional Japanese versions, and they are called “fortune crackers,” making it apparent that they were not originally a dessert.
Another difference in the American version and the traditional fortune crackers is that the original crackers are much larger in size. They also do not come with the fortune inside. Rather, it’s placed on the outside “arms” of the cracker.
How Fortune Cookies Are Made
Traditionally, hand skillet molds were used to create the shape of fortune cookies. Also, they were not created with the same ingredients because they were not sweet dessert treats. Today, however, they are made with vanilla as the main flavor as well as sugar, flour, and eggs.
Traditionally, the dough was poured into the skillet molds and baked. These days the dough is used to create flat circles for baking. While they are still hot and flexible, the circles are shaped into fortune cookies and set into holders where they will harden as they cool.
Fortune Cookie Rules
After their widespread popularity in America, myths, legends, and rules regarding the proper way to eat fortune cookies have been created. Check out these set of guidelines that have been curated by visitors of Eat Fortune Cookie, a popular website that includes anything and everything about fortune cookies.
- Choose the cookie that is furthest away from you when served by the host or hostess.
- Pick a cookie that is facing you with its two, pointed ends.
- Don’t rip your fortune, or it will not come true. Handle with care!
- Don’t tell anyone your fortune or, like a birthday wish, it will not come true.
- If your cookie is missing a fortune inside, it means you have good luck coming.
- Two fortunes in one cookie will mean that neither will come true.
- Don’t look at your fortune until you have finished eating the entire cookie.
- Let someone else pick your cookie for you.
Versions of Fortune Cookies Around the World
Everywhere you go, you can find fortune cookies or culturally unique versions of them. They are globally popular now, and different cultures have created their own type of little lucky desserts.
Italians have created a version of fortune cookies called “lucky cannolis.” Cannolis are a flaky pastry filled with cream and come in different flavors. Mexican fare has what they call Lucky Tacos which are red, fortune cookie-shaped tacos.
The history of fortune cookies is a mysterious one that we aren’t completely sure about. We do know that though many think they come from Chinese tradition, they are actually a Japanese cultural food. They did not originally start as a sweet treat intended as a dessert, but a sultry flavored, larger treat that people ate with tea.