Despite the large Asian presence in Hawaii, it wasn’t until I moved to the U.S. mainland that I realized every Chinese restaurant meal came with a fortune cookie. You see, they were a regional thing originally—centered around California, Oregon, and Washington state. It wasn’t much of a Hawaii thing at all.

Ever since my first restaurant-delivered fortune cookie at Phoenix Inn in Evanston, Ill., I’ve become enamored with the delicately sweet flavor of these crisp tea cakes and their sometimes absurd, but sometimes thought provoking, slips of paper.

Contrary to popular belief, the fortune cookie is very much an American invention—with Japanese, not Chinese, roots. Japanese-American Makoto Hagiwara is considered its inventor. It is said that Hagiwara began serving the little treats at San Francisco’s Japanese Tea Garden, in the historic Golden Gate Park, sometime in the early 1900s.

There is a competing claim for its invention by another Japanese-American, Seiichi Kito, of Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo.

During World War II, as Japanese-Americans were forced out of business in California, many of these fortune cookie manufacturers closed up shop. Enterprising Chinese-Americans, who were already offering the confection at their restaurants, took up the making of the fortune cookie.

According to Jennifer Lee of The New York Times, over three billion fortune cookies are produced each year—mostly for U.S. consumption. The largest of these producers are Wonton Food of New York City, Baily International of National City, Ill., and Peking Noodle of Los Angeles. A favorite in my native Honolulu is Hawaii Candy.

You don’t have to go out to buy these little treats. I’ll admit, many of them don’t taste very good at all. There are several simple recipes you can use to make them at home.


POPSUGAR tutorial on making homemade fortune cookies.


A 1991 cookbook by Nathalie Dupree offers a simple recipe that uses egg whites, sugar, butter, almond extract, flour, and salt. You can get the step-by-step directions from Chicago Tribune food writer and neighbor of mine, Bill Daley.

But before you set out making your own fortune cookies, you’ll need some fortunes to write on slips of paper. Here are a few. Be warned, not all of them are family-friendly.

A cardboard belt would be a waist of paper.

Those who throw dirt are sure to lose ground.

Man who streaks is unsuited for his work.

Man who does everything under the sun gets everything sunburned.

Man who gets too big for his britches may get exposed in the end.

Man with hand in pocket feel cocky all day.

Man who run in front of car get tired; man who run behind car get exhausted.

Man who keep feet firmly on ground have trouble putting on pants.

Man who scratches rear should not bite fingernails.

Man who sinks into woman’s arms soon will find arms in woman’s sink.

Man who eat many prunes get good run for money.

Foolish man give wife grand piano. Wise man give wife upright organ.

War doesn’t determine who is right, war determines who is left.

Girl who go camping must beware of evil intent.

If you want pretty nurse, you must be patient.

Wife who put husband in doghouse soon find him in cathouse.

Man who drive like hell bound to get there.

Modern house without toilet uncanny.

Man who stand on toilet is high on pot.

Man who lives in glass house should change clothes in basement.

Man who jump off cliff jump to conclusion.

What are some of your favorite fortunes—or do you have a couple of your own you’d like to share?