A feature of Chinese meals and cuisine in the West, fortune cookies have become something of a restaurant and takeaway staple. Once you’ve finished your meal, you traditionally split open these sweet cookies to find a short piece of life advice printed on a piece of paper. It’s a nice bit of fun that actually has a fascinating history behind it! Here are some facts about fortune cookies to help clue you up.
Fortune cookies aren’t actually Chinese. They’re based on a Japanese ‘good luck’ cookie recipe – meaning that we’ve likely been looking in completely the wrong place of origins for the treat.
In fact, you won’t find them in China at all. They actually first emerged there as ‘American’ fortune cookies in the late 80s, but few people were interested – there’s next to no chance of you cracking into a fortune cookie if you head to China for an authentic meal.
Believe it or not, fortune cookies are bought and consumed in their billions each year. Around three billion, in fact, are produced and sold, with the US being the main market.
In fact, the biggest manufacturer of fortune cookies is based in Brooklyn, New York. Wonton Food Inc is thought to make more than four and a half million cookies a day!No one’s too sure on where the exact origins of fortune cookies lie, nor who actually came up with the idea. The most popular theory is that they were the brainchild of Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese national working in San Francisco in the US, in 1914.
Their original name pre-World War II is thought to have been ‘fortune tea cakes’.
Believe it or not, there is generally only one fortune writer. The main writer of the majority of fortunes was Donald Lau, who was vice president for Wonton Food Inc. There have been other writers who have taken up the mantle since the mid-90s.
What was Lau’s reason for retiring from fortune writing? Writer’s block – believe it or not!
You’ll find fortune cookies served all over the world, despite the US’ apparent love for them. They are served in the UK, Italy, France, Brazil and India.
Fortune cookies are made as round shapes before being folded around fortune slips and cooked.
There are machines available which specifically make fortune cookies. One is said to be able to press and make around 8,000 in one hour alone. That’s got to save a lot of time and wrist strain, on the whole!
There are thought to be around 15,000 different fortunes in Wonton Food’s database – how many duplicates have you found so far?
Fortune cookies have a surprisingly simple recipe. All you need is sesame seed oil, sugar, flour and vanilla.
On occasion, you may find a nonsensical fortune – due to mistranslation directly from Chinese. This isn’t a comment on the translation work – some Chinese proverbs simply do not translate well into English.
Do you know any interesting or fun facts about fortune cookies that we’ve missed? Share them with us in the comments section below!