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Where did the fortune cookie originate from?

Contrary to popular belief, fortune cookies are not Chinese delicacies.  In fact, there are no fortune cookies in China.

These crisp cookie made from flour, sugar, vanilla, and oil with a "fortune" wrapped inside are popular desserts in Chinese restaurants in the United States. This is probably where the association of the cookies to Chinese stemmed from.

Several individuals claimed that they invented the "prophetic" goodies. Makoto Hagiwara of Golden Gate Park's Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco claimed that he was 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.

However, David Jung, founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company in Los Angeles, made a competing claim that he invented the cookie in 1918.

To settle the issue, a mock Court of Historical Review was staged in San Francisco.  During the proceedings, a fortune cookie was introduced as a key piece of evidence with a message reading, "S.F. Judge who rules for L.A. Not Very Smart Cookie". A federal judge of the Court of Historical Review determined that the cookie originated with Hagiwara and the court ruled in favor of San Francisco. Subsequently, the city of Los Angeles condemned the decision.

Meanwhile, another individual claimed that it was him who invented the cookie. Seiichi Kito, the founder of Fugetsu-do of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, claims that he got the idea of putting a message in a cookie from Omikuji (fortune slip) which are sold at temples and shrines in Japan. Kito further explained that he sold his cookies to Chinese restaurants where they were greeted with much enthusiasm in both the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. Thus, Kito's main claim is that he is responsible for the cookie being so strongly associated with Chinese restaurants.

 

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