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Cracking Open the Story of Fortune Cookie

Jeanelle Wu
You are almost guaranteed to be served fortune cookies at the end of your meal at a Chinese restaurant in America.

Fortune cookies are a staple in Chinese restaurants. Well, at least they are a staple in Chinese restaurants in America. It has become an expected tradition to receive a fortune cookie at the end of your meal that comes along with the check. You crack the cookie in half to reveal your fortune, which is usually something positive and uplifting about yourself or your future. Whether or not you take the fortunes seriously, there is more to fortune cookies than what is inside.


Although fortune cookies are served in Chinese restaurants, the origin of the cookie is actually Japanese. Ironically, according to Justin Leong (12), “[he has] barely ever seen fortune cookies in China. It is way more often that I see other desserts like mango pomelo sago or tangyuan, which are more authentic Chinese desserts and way better than fortune cookies.” 


It is way more often that I see other desserts like mango pomelo sago or tangyuan, which are more authentic Chinese desserts and way better than fortune cookies.

— Justin Leong (12)


The fortune cookie—although was made a bit differently in the past than the fortune cookies served today—is said to have arrived in the US with Japanese immigrants between the 1880s to the 1900s ( The first restaurants to have served fortune cookies were in Japanese bakeries in San Fransico and eventually spread to Los Angeles. But how did the fortune cookies find their place in Chinese restaurants? Well, World War II is when the shift happened and Chinese manufacturers began taking over the production of fortune cookies due to the internment of Japanese Americans  (New York Times). Since then, the idea of fortune cookies has been developed and changed into the crispy, small treats they are today.


In addition to their fascinating history, there is a lot to analyze about the slip of paper you find in your fortune cookies. Most people would expect fortune cookies to predict something that would happen in the future, but in a sample analysis done by Walt Hickey, he found that most of the fortunes mentioned “you,” such as your personality/strengths: 52.9% of the fortunes out of 1000 cookies analyzed in his study mentions “you”, while 22.3% are predictions of the future ( 


Even if many people do not believe in what fortune cookies tell them, there are a few superstitions that are widely held among believers, and who knows, even if you are not superstitious, there is no harm in having the possibility of some good luck on your side. When picking your fortune cookie out of the ones placed on the table, many people assume it is best to pick the one closest to you. However, according to superstition, you are supposed to pick the cookie that has the two pointed ends pointing closest toward you (like the cookie is picking you) ( If you want your fortune to come true, you need to keep it safe (don’t rip it) after eating the entire cookie (I keep mine in the back of my phone case). Also, you cannot choose which cookie to eat after already reading the fortunes in all the cookies; you must stick to one!


So, the next time you go to a Chinese restaurant with your friends or family and are opening your fortune cookies, impress them with the history you now know about fortune cookies. Make sure you eat the entire cookie and keep your fortune in a safe place for it to come true. I wish you good fortune!

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About the Contributor
Jeanelle Wu, Editor-In-Chief
Jeanelle Wu is a senior at YLHS and is excited to serve as one of the editors-in-chief for The Wrangler this year. As she continues writing for The Wrangler, she is thrilled to be able to help other students find their writing voice, express herself through her writing, and put her leadership skills to the test. Jeanelle is a part of the YLHS business program, CSF, and chess club and is the President of YLFBLA. In her free time, she enjoys playing the piano, singing her heart out, and spending time with her family and friends. Furthermore, Jeanelle values giving back to the community; specifically, she volunteers for storytime at the Yorba Linda Public Library and Kaiser Hospital. If she cannot be reached, she is likely on her way to explore a new country, seeking adventure, or listening to Taylor Swift on repeat. Jeanelle believes journalism is a creative expression for sharing her perspective and conveying information. Her passion for journalism and curiosity are looking forward to an excellent year for The Wrangler.

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