Though a staple of Americanized Chinese restaurants, the fortune cookie is definitely not part of the traditional Chinese menu. In fact, this dessert likely has Japanese origins. An 1878 Japanese block print showed a man using the same grills used in Kyoto to make fortune cookies today (there is a local tradition there of making sujiura senbei, or "fortune crackers"). The cookie was popularized in the United States, and is often credited with being invented there.
The idea that fortune cookies were invented in China comes from the fact that they are primarily served in Americanized Chinese restaurants. 00:03
Japanese bakers who made fortune cookies may have left fortune cookies to be associated with Chinese restaurants because Japanese culture was not favorably considered in the U.S. during World War II. 03:37
Until the 1940s, fortune cookies were known as "fortune tea cakes." 06:48