Fortune cookies first appeared in the late 1980’s at a Japanese tea house in San Francisco. By 1989 these cookies became so popular that they were imported into Hong Kong to be sold as “Genuine American Fortune Cookies” but were considered “too American” and failed to become profitable in China.
Up until World War II, fortune cookies were known as “fortune tea cakes”, a possible reference to its origins as Japanese tea cakes. Alternatively, many view the mooncake hidden message system, used in the Ming revolution, to be a precursor to the modern day fortune cookie. The surrounding mythology adds significance to what was a simple treat.
Before the early 20th-century fortune cookies were all made by hand. This changed dramatically after the fortune cookie machine was invented by Shuck Yee in Oakland, California. The mass production of fortune cookies allowed them to drop in price and become the novelty courtesy dessert we enjoy today.