The fortune cookie, made of flour, sugar, vanilla, and oil, is a crisp cookie with a fortune wrapped inside. Generally these fortunes are words of faux wisdom or a vague prophecy possibly including a Chinese phrase with translation. Fortune cookies are generally served throughout the United States in Chinese restaurants but are absent in China. The cookies invention is unclear although they are often summarized as “introduced by the Japanese, popularized by the Chinese, but ultimately they are consumed by Americans.”
In the 19th century a cookie similar in appearance to the modern fortune cookie was made Kyoto. They were a little large, made of darker dough, and the batter contained sesame rather than vanilla. Many of the claimed inventors of the cookie are Japanese so it makes since that the fortune cookie was modified from a cookie design learned from their days in Japan.
Makoto Hagiwara of Tea Garden in San Francisco is reported to have been the first person in the USA to serve the modern version of the cookie in the 1890s. David Jung also made a claim to have invented the cookie in 1918. Seiichi Kito also has a claim to the invention. Kito says he sold his cookies to Chinese restaurants where they were greeted with much enthusiasm in both the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas and therefore Kito’s claim is that he is responsible for the cookie being strongly associated with Chinese restaurants.
Around the Second World War the fortune cookie moved from a Japanese-American confection to a Chinese-American confection. Since many Japanese were in internment camps during the war the Chinese manufacturers seized the opportunity to create fortune cookies.
Shuck Yee changed the industry drastically when he invented the fortune cookie machine. The machine allowed for the mass production of the cookies and resulted in their price dropping. There about 3 billion fortune cookies made each year around the world. Wonton Food, in Brooklyn, is the largest manufacturer of the cookies with a production rate of 4.5 million fortune cookies per day.