The Fortune Cookie’s Background

A secret admirer will soon send you a sign of affection. And so it begins love blooms and its credit goes to a Fortune Cookie. With over 60 million fortune cookies made annually, messages of love and inspiration are what we seek, even if the cookie crumbles.


Whether this delightful end to a meal was invented in China, Japan or America is unknown. There are four legends behind the cookie:

Legend One:

Sometime in the 13th or 14th Century, Mongols occupied China. The patriotic revolutionary, Chu Yuan Chang planned an uprising against the Mongols. To keep his plan top secret and share the date of the event, messages were hidden in “Moon Cakes”. It was the perfect plan as “Moon Cakes’ contained a “yolk” made of Lotus Paste, which the Mongols found to be unpleasing. Chu Yuan Chang replaced the “yolk” with a rice paper message. His plan foiled the Mongols and the Ming Dynasty was born.

Some say this legend inspired the Chinese 49ers who worked on the American Railway through Nevada to California. When the Moon Festival time was to be celebrated they had no “Moon Cakes’ and improvised with biscuits, creating the first Fortune Cookie.

Legend Two:

Meet Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese immigrant and designer of the famous Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California. This legend gives credit to Hagiwara for inventing the Fortune Cookie in 1914.

While working for an anti-Japanese Mayor, Hagiwara was fired. He suffered great hardship until a later Mayor reinstated him after great public outcry. To show his gratitude for his supporters, Hagiwara created cookies that contained a small “thank-you” note inside. Their popularity grew and the fortune cookies were displayed at the 1915 World Fair in San Francisco.

Legend Three:

Around the same time as Hagiwara, a Chinese immigrant by the name of David Jung, founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company is said to have invented the fortune cookie in 1918 in Los Angeles, California.

Witnessing the poverty and unemployed near his shop, he created a rolled up pastry and tucked inside an inspirational message written by a local Presbyterian Minister. He then handed the pastries out to give hope to his “neighbors”.

Legend Four:

Also in Los Angeles, this legend is the story of a Japanese-American baker named Seichi Kito. His cookies were created and inside he put haiku versus and sold the creations to Chinese restaurants.

To this day, Seichi Kito’s bakery, Fugetsu-Do still remains part of Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo and celebrated its 100th anniversary. Displayed prominently in Fugetsu-Do’s window is the mold purportedly used to make the original cookies.

In 1964, Edward Louie of San Francisco’s Lotus Fortune Cookie, invented a machine to make the cookies after being hired to make cookies that solicited ideas for a Pepsodent Toothpaste jingle.

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