The Fortune Cookie Quest

No dish of General Tso's, chow mein, or beef and broccoli is complete without a fortune cookie at the end. In fact, factories churn out an estimated *three billion* of these folded confections every year, mostly for the U.S. market. So how did fortune cookies become not just a quintessential part of Chinese takeout, but also an American cultural icon? This episode, we crack open the history of the fortune cookie to get at the conflicted origins—or, at the very least, the winning lottery numbers—hidden within. With the help of author Jennifer 8. Lee, we trace the origin of this oracular cookie back in time: from a court case pitting one set of cookie pioneers in San Francisco against their Angeleno rivals, all the way to the tiny town that may have started it all...a town that's (gasp!) not even in China! Your fortune today: listen carefully, and all will be revealed. 

A repeating GIF of a woman in a blue shirt folding fortune cookies by bending disks over a metal dowel.
The hypnotizing process of folding fortune cookies.

Episode Notes

Jennifer 8. Lee

Jennifer 8. Lee is the author of The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, a book about the all-American origins of Chinese food—and the stories of the people who cook, serve, and deliver it. (You can learn more about the history of American Chinese food, and hear more from Jenny, in our episode, The United States of Chinese Food!)

Kevin Chang and The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory

Kevin Chang is the owner of the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory in San Francisco, which has been making fortune cookies continuously since 1962.

Join The Washington Post for a game of "Booker Tweet or Fortune Cookie?"


Click here for a transcript of the show. Please note that the transcript is provided as a courtesy and may contain errors.