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Kids say funny things: Fortune cookies and some facts

We get Panda Express take out on those nights when Chris and I are too tired to make dinner or do anything else in the kitchen. When we order their family meal, they usually dump a handful of fortune cookies into our bag. Next time I’m definitely making a request to eliminate those from our order; fortune cookies peek out of our pantry in random places. Both kiddos will pick through each and read their fortunes, comparing them to each others. 

Each time, they have to read it out loud and ask what it means, although I don’t feel like interpreting some fortune after a heavy meal. But they look curious and eager, so fine! After I tell them the encouraging fortune, they hold the slip of paper like its something precious, pinch the slip of paper carefully between both thumbs and index fingers, and nod their heads like they were handed a brilliant insight.


Who would’ve thought that a simple fortune cookie we easily take for granted would have this much controversy and complicated history surrounding it? My initial purpose to writing this post was sharing the brief conversation I had with Ellis and share some interesting facts about fortune cookies. Instead, a brief search turned into a history lesson about Asian immigrants’ history in America in the early 1900s. Now my appreciation for fortune cookies has grown tremendously and I’m excited that a simple conversation with Ellis has given me content for a homeschooling social studies’ lesson. I hope you learn something new too!

The other day, Ellis broke open a fortune cookie, took out the message, and left the cookie uneaten on the table.

Ellis: “Mommy, what does this mean?” she says pointing the paper to my face.

Me: I read, “Your charming nature will open many doors for you.” “Wow, that’s pretty nice.”

Ellis: “What does that mean?” she asks. I could tell by her facial expression that she wanted to hear something affirming about herself.

Me: “It means that you’re very charming and that your charm will bring good opportunities to you in the future.”

Ellis: “Ooooohhhhh, I like that,” she said holding the paper. “I didn’t know Panda Express was so inspiring. I thought they just sold food”

Me: “Yea, hey this is good. Can I write a post about it?”

Ellis: You can if you want, I guess,” she grumbled, walking away.

Some fun facts about fortune cookies:

  • origin is Kyoto, Japan: Japanese tea cakes “tsujiura senbei” made with white miso and sesame flavors and a fortune tucked inside the treat
  • origin is not China, as would be assumed since fortune cookies are served as dessert in Chinese restaurants
  • in the early 1900s, Japanese bakeries in CA, like in SF and LA, were making these cookies
  • If it originated from Japan, why did it become a Chinese dessert served in Chinese eating establishments? – A possible theory: During WWII, while Japanese-American were incarcerated in internment camps, Chinese began to manufacture them

Conflicting theories of who invented fortune cookies:

  • 1. Japanese Tea Garden owner, Makoto Hagiwara, who served the cookies to the public (1907-1909) with “thank you” notes for supporting him after he was fired by a racist mayor and then reinstated back to his position by a new mayor
  • 2. In Los Angeles of 1918, David Jung, a Cantonese immigrant who was the founder of Hong Kong Noodle Company, handed out free cookies with inspirational Bible verses to unemployed men outside his establishment. He wanted to feed and provide encouragement to these men.
  • 3. In the early 1900s, another Japanese immigrant named Seiichi Kito, founder of Fugetsu-Do in Little Tokyo claimed that he invented it. He got the idea from Japan’s shrines where messages were put into treats and he used this idea to sell to Chinese restaurants in both northern and southern California, which became extremely popular and widespread.
  • In 1983, a judge claimed that San Francisco was the birthplace of fortune cookies and gave the credit to Hagiwara.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great start to the long weekend! Take care and God bless – Esther

Categories: Random Thoughts


Welcome to my blog! My name is Esther and I'm so happy you are here. I'm an avid nature photographer and a daydreaming thinker. My posts revolve around photos of nature's beauty, homeschooling adventures with my 2 kids, sporadic reflections on my child's heart condition, Bible reading reflections, gardening feats, and other mish mash things. Hopefully you'll leave encouraged, pensive, or smiling at the simple things of life. Thank you for stopping by and hope you'll find some interesting posts to read!

12 replies

  1. What interesting history. Over the years, I’ve noticed that the ‘fortunes’ included in the cookies often are aphorisms, which always disappoints me. Ben Franklin quotations in a fortune cookies just doesn’t seem right!


    1. Thanks Linda! Fortune cookies have an interesting history and it started in CA. Good history to know about our state. But to be honest, I had no idea that its history would take me that long to synthesize. yikes. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.
      The fortunes included vary it seems…sometimes they have quotes, aphorisms, or random sayings. It’d be fun to make your own cookies and put fortunes in them for friends. Don’t you think Amazon or Etsy would sell something like that?
      Hope you are well. We are getting rained on this weekend, which will last a few more days. Kiddos are amazed at the steadiness of rain we’ve been getting these days. Unheard of!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve not had a fortune cookie in years, but that is a nice fortune Ellis found. This was fascinating info about fortune cookies. My mom was a tea drinker and I think the brand was Red Rose Tea that had little sayings on the teabag tag. I’d come home from work and see this little tag next to where I’d be eating dinner with a nice saying or some words of advice and enjoyed seeing them.


    1. Fortune cookies are fun, but if you haven’t had one in year, you’re not missing out. They are so hard to bite and chew.
      I agree that inspirational sayings on teabags or packaged food items are a nice touch. It’s unexpected happiness.
      Kids save their fortunes here and there and out of the blue, they ask me where a specific fortune is. What?! They say my confused face and then say “never mind.” They must think I have a secret stash where their tossed toys and random things are stored away. oyyyyyyy…..

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Esther! I didn’t know Panda Express gave fortune cookies to diners; I guess it’s high time I checked out the franchise here in Manila; the long lines when it first opened discouraged me from ever trying out the place.

    Speaking of fortune cookies, a message I got from one still resonates with me until today: “You are one of those people who goes places in life.”


    1. Oh wow, you still remember your fortune cookie message! How cool is that?!
      Thanks for your kind message about my post. Appreciate your feedback. Yes, check out Panda Express…I’ve always liked their broccoli and beef and orange chicken. If the line is not too long, check it out. Are there other restaurants in Manila that serve fortune cookies?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, there’s this other restaurant I know — but the prices are on the exorbitant side, so I’ll opt out of that. I’ll keep Panda Express in mind as there’s one at a big mall one hour away from me!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It is! But to save time, you can opt not to put them in cookies or something. You can just simply put the “fortunes” in a jar with a good cover, and bring the jar out when your friends come over.

        Liked by 1 person

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