No, Virginia, No Fortune Cookies in Beijing

Beijing Travel Report No Fortune Cookie in Beijing

Nope, did not find fortune cookies in Beijing

…At least not where I have eaten in Beijing.  I can attest that I did not receive any fortune cookies during or after my meals.  I did not even see one while traveling in China.

I have heard for many years that fortune cookies, those delightful little bringers of generic predictions, were created in America.  Supposedly, the Chinese not only did not have them as an after dinner mint, but did not have them at all.

So, if these origami like cookies stuffed with paper did not originate in China, then just where did they come from?

The below quote comes from this page at Wikipedia.  It goes into the different “alleged” origins of the prophetic treat, its production history, and reverse importation into, guess where, CHINA!

Makoto Hagiwara of Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco is reported to have been the first person in the USA to have served the modern version of the cookie when he did so at the tea garden in the 1890s or early 1900s. The fortune cookies were made by a San Francisco bakery, Benkyodo.

To summarize from the Wikipedia page:

  • Fortune cookies created around 1900 by Japanese in America based on a cookie called “tsujiura senbei” from around Kyoto, Japan.
  • Idea to take tradition of “fortune slips” practiced at temples and shrines in Japan and put inside cookie
  • Internment of Japanese producers during WWII led Chinese in America to take over production.
  • Introduction of fortune cookie machine allows switching from hand made to mass production, driving down costs.
  • Fortune cookie becomes popular with Chinese restaurant owners as inexpensive “check” treat.
  • Attempt to import them into China failed as cookie considered too American.

Here is a Youtube video of them being made in San Francisco.

Of course, the cookie has evolved in recent years.  It could not stay the same.  Now cookies teach individual Chinese words and pronunciation on the reverse side of the slip.  Some are even multi-colored.  They are all still yummy, though.

I did not expect to find any fortune cookies in China, and I did not.  However, that will not stop me from enjoying their tastiness and attempts to predict my life.

Even a fortune cookie is right every so often…

Share this bit about Chinese fortune cookies with your friends.  Also comment below on other “Chinese” foods that are not actually Chinese.

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