How do fortunes get inside of fortune cookies? (2024)

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Answer

The cookies are baked as flat circles. After they are removed from the oven, slips of paper are folded inside while the cookies are still warm and flexible. As the fortune cookies cool, they harden into shape.

How do fortunes get inside of fortune cookies? (1)

If you’ve ever been to a Chinese restaurant, you’ve most likely received a fortune cookie at the end of your meal. You’ve also probably wondered how they managed to get that tiny slip of paper into a hard, closed cookie.

Should you not have seen a fortune cookie, let me describe one for you. They are small, hard golden cookies that can fit into the palm of your hand. But there’s one thing that makes them unique: they’re folded into a butterfly shape to create a pocket holding a 1/2” x 2” paper “fortune.”

Fortune cookies often come at the end of a meal in a Chinese, and sometimes Japanese, restaurant. Traditionally, the fortunes were Confucian phrases about life (Confucius was a famous Chinese philosopher from the 6th century BC—over 2500 years ago!). Nowadays, the fortunes inside the cookies contain just about everything from quotes to advice. Some companies even let you write your own fortunes! Often, they are written in both English and Chinese, and may have lottery numbers and smiley faces on them.

Before we get to how fortune cookies are made, let’s try to find out where they originated. The history of fortune cookies is a little murky. Some think that modern-day fortune cookies were inspired by 14th century Chinese rebels against Mongol invaders. Legend says that a Taoist priest and his followers sent messages hidden inside of traditional Chinese moon cakes (Chinese pastries stuffed with lotus seed paste) to inform rebels about potential uprisings against the invaders. Others believe that the fortune cookies have Japanese roots in traditional tsujiura senbei (rice cakes with paper fortunes stuffed inside), made at the Hyotanyama Inari shrine in the 19th century. Another group of fortune cookie enthusiasts thinks that the idea started around the same time, but in this instance by Chinese railroad workers in America who would hand out cakes stuffed with holiday wishes.

The invention of fortune cookies as we know them today is just as difficult to pin down. Most people nowadays believe that fortune cookies were created by a Japanese man named Makoto Hagiwara in 1914 in San Francisco. Hagiwara owned what is now called the Golden Gate Park Japanese Tea Garden, where he served tea and fortune cookies. However, many still hold to the popular belief that fortune cookies were invented by a Chinese-American named David (Tsung) Jung, who owned the Hong Kong Noodle Company in Los Angeles. He claimed to have stuffed the cookies with passages from the Bible and handed them out to unemployed men near his bakery in 1918. In 1983, the debate between the two confectioners came to a head in the Court of Historical Review in San Francisco when their dispute was decided by Judge Daniel M. Hanlon, in favor of Hagiwara.

So, just how did these two gentlemen manage to get fortunes inside their cookies? Well, the process is actually very simple, and relies on the basic chemistry of a common ingredient—sugar. The batter for fortune cookies is usually composed of sugar, flour, water and eggs. When warm, the dough is flexible and can be molded into many shapes. When the baked dough cools though, the sugar hardens into a crispy, shiny cookie. Originally, bakers would mix the dough, pour it out into 3” circles, bake them, quickly place a fortune in the middle and use chopsticks to fold them into the familiar shape before they cooled.

In 1974 fortune cookie manufacturing changed forever. Edward Louie, the owner of the Lotus Fortune Cookie Company in San Francisco, invented a machine that could insert the fortune and fold the cookie. In 1980 Yong Lee created the first fully automated fortune cookie machine, called the Fortune III. Modern machines follow the same steps of handmade fortune cookies: they mix ingredients, pour batter into 3” cups which are then covered with metal plates to keep the batter flat and bake for about 3 ½ minutes. Vacuums then suck fortunes into place, use metal fingers to fold the fortune in half to trap the fortune inside, bend the cookie into shape, and cool and package the final cookie. Now fortune cookie machines like the Kitamura FCM-8006W can make up to 8,000 cookies in an hour!

Fortune cookies are a prominent part of Asian-American cuisine and have filtered into popular culture as well. People create customized fortune cookies to send funny messages to friends and family—and sometimes to even propose marriage to a loved one! They are even used in advertising campaigns for corporations. Even though popular belief says otherwise, modern fortune cookies are as American as baseball and apple pie.

Published: 11/19/2019. Author: Science Reference Section, Library of Congress

Have a question? Ask a science librarian

How do fortunes get inside of fortune cookies? (2024)

FAQs

How do fortunes get inside of fortune cookies? ›

Answer. The cookies are baked as flat circles. After they are removed from the oven, slips of paper are folded inside while the cookies are still warm and flexible. As the fortune cookies cool, they harden into shape.

Where do fortunes in fortune cookies come from? ›

Who makes up the fortunes in fortune cookies? ›

Donald Lau has worked for Wonton Foods since the 1980s, when it was just a small noodle company in Chinatown; as the organization grew and production increased, he took over writing the fortunes for the cookies.

What does it mean when you get a fortune cookie without fortune inside? ›

You are in control of your own future and are able to take the reins and make what you want to happen, happen. You have everything you need to move forward and bring in good energy. Although it may be a little less fun, no fortune is nothing to worry about. It doesn't mean that you have no future or luck.

How do you fill a fortune cookie? ›

Remove from the oven and immediately use a spatula to release it from the pan. Add a paper fortune into the center of the cookie, fold in half, and pinch to seal. Fold the cookie over the edge of a cup or coffee mug and then place it into a muffin tin to cool completely.

How are fortunes put inside fortune cookies? ›

Answer. The cookies are baked as flat circles. After they are removed from the oven, slips of paper are folded inside while the cookies are still warm and flexible. As the fortune cookies cool, they harden into shape.

Why don t fortune cookies tell fortunes? ›

Simply put, they no longer tell fortunes because the family-run companies that dominate this business cannot keep up with demand. Yet that doesn't spoil the fun of fortune cookies. Some companies create "adult" messages, and a few allow patrons to create their own fortunes.

How much do fortune cookie writers get paid? ›

How much does a Fortune Cookie Writer make? As of Jun 12, 2024, the average hourly pay for a Fortune Cookie Writer in the United States is $38.94 an hour.

Do fortune cookie fortunes come true? ›

As for predicting the future, no, fortune cookies don't have special powers of foresight. The fortune cookie you open at a Chinese restaurant came into your hands randomly. If it happens to contain a fortune that comes true, it's just coincidence. Besides, many fortunes don't even predict the future.

What are the lucky numbers on fortune cookies? ›

This will give you a better chance at winning the lottery

The six numbers in FORTUNE COOKIES associated with the most winners are: 4, 14, 15, 22, 26 and 28.

What are the rules of fortune cookies? ›

THE instructions on the red wrapper are very explicit: (1) Open the packaging. (2) Use both hands to break open the fortune cookie. (3) Retrieve and read the fortune. (4) Eat the cookie.

Are fortune cookies edible? ›

Fortune cookies are often served as a dessert in Chinese restaurants in the United States, Canada, Australia, and other countries, but they are not Chinese in origin.

How many different fortunes are there in fortune cookies? ›

FACT#6: There are only 15,000 unique fortunes.

Can dogs eat fortune cookies? ›

Technically, yes, dogs can eat fortune cookies. Fortune cookies are basic foods with few ingredients, and it is safe to give them to your dog in most circ*mstances. However, fortune cookies are not necessarily good for dogs. Dogs do not need to eat processed foods and sugars.

Do you have to eat the fortune cookie to get the fortune? ›

There are many superstitions when it comes to eating fortune cookies. Some people claim that you must eat the whole cookie in order for the fortune to come true or, if the fortune is ill fated, that you cannot eat any of the cookie or the bad fortune will come true.

Can you put your own message in a fortune cookie? ›

Fortune cookies personalised with your own messages inside.

You can include up to 5 different messages on the front of the slip and there is also the option to print a message on the reverse. Each fortune cookie is individually wrapped in a choice of colour foil wrappers. Available in quantities of 300, 600 and 900.

What is the symbolism of fortune cookies? ›

In China fortune cookies are referred to in many terms such as “good luck cookie”, “cookie with fortune words” and “good luck biscuit etc. Fortune cookies are a bit different than regular confectionery because they are not just meant for eating but also have significance. They often symbolize luck, fate and wisdom.

How much does a fortune cookie writer make a year? ›

$60,000 is the 25th percentile. Salaries below this are outliers. $98,000 is the 75th percentile. Salaries above this are outliers.

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