September 13 is Fortune Cookie Day, but those tasty little after-dinner snacks might not have the history you presume. From where they actually originated to what they’re made of, here are some fun facts about fortune cookies.
Do They Even Come From China?
There are many myths about the origin of fortune cookies. While they’re a staple at Chinese restaurants in the U.S., they didn’t come from there. Believe it or not, they aren’t even popular in China.
Some folks believe they started in the U.S., while others think they were brought here by Japanese immigrants. According to some accounts, the first fortune cookies in the U.S. were made by Makoto Hagiwara, who designed Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco.
However, some restaurant owners claim they originated in other locations around San Francisco and Los Angeles. While the specifics are still up for debate (and may never be settled), it’s safe to say the fortune cookie trend in America started on the west coast.
Regardless of where they came from, though, a delicious meal at any Chinese restaurant in the States isn’t complete without a fortune cookie.
While more than one company makes fortune cookies, the one that seems to have put the folded treat on the map was the Lotus Fortune Cookie Company started by Edward Louie in the 1960s. Louie even invented a machine to put the fortunes in the cookies and fold them, so it no longer had to be done by hand.
In 1980, Yong Lee created an upgraded, fully-automated fortune-cookie machine. Since then, there have been other machines and factories, like the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory, that specialize in making these fortune-stuffed treats.
It only takes four ingredients to make fortune cookies: flour, sugar, water, and sesame oil. However, most manufacturers do add other ingredients. Some use vegetable shortening or butter instead of sesame oil. Starch, eggs, and food coloring are also regularly used.
You can find many fortune cookie recipes online if you want to make your own. You’ll also find holiday fortune cookies, including red and green ones for Christmas.
Bad and Customized Fortunes
Not all fortune cookies are stuffed with a positive message and lucky numbers. Some contain bad fortunes, advertisements, or even your own words. That’s right! You can order customized fortune cookies stuffed with any message you want!
Your fortune might not always come true, but eating that bland cookie wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying without that little slip of paper inside.