Chinese American, Collection, General APA

Collections: Got Fortune?

The Hong Kong Noodle Company located on the corner of San Pedro Street and 9th Street, opened around 1913 in downtown Los Angeles’ Chinatown. According to several sources, David Jung, the owner of Hong Kong Noodle Company invented the fortune cookie in 1918. It is said that Jung invented the cookie out of his concern for the poor whom he saw wandering near his shop. He created cookies containing strips of paper with inspirational bible messages and passed them out for free on the streets. Fortune cookies were originally served as an appetizer, not a desert, to help pass the time between ordering your food and having it served. The surprise fortunes inside the cookies promoted conversation among the diners.

Hong Kong Noodles Baker's Hat and Tea Cakes Tin

The baker’s hat and the tin can in the photo date from the 1930s. These “tea cakes” are actually fortune cookies.

Look for these objects at the upcoming exhibit “Sweet and Sour: Chinese Food in America” which is  scheduled to open in February 2011 at the National Museum of American History.

Sources:

Merlin Lowe, Owner of Hong Kong Noodle Company

Lee, Jennifer 8. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. New York, NY: Twelve Books, 2008.

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One thought on “Collections: Got Fortune?

  1. Krystyn Moon, Ph.D. says:

    I have read in other places that the fortune cookie was co-opted by Chinese American restauranteurs. It was actually invented by a Japanese American entrepreneur named Makoto Hagiwara, who had worked at the Midwinter International Exposition in 1894 in San Francisco, and then opened a restaurant across the street. Read Arthur Chandler and Marvin Nathan’s _The Fantastic Fair: The Story of the California midwinter International Exposition Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, 1894 (page 73).

    See: http://sfpl.org/index.php?pg=2000131901. The De Young has an archival collection related to Midwinter Exposition.

    See also: http://www.discovernikkei.org/en/journal/2007/10/31/fortune-cookie/. It might be helpful to talk to the individuals involved in this mock trial or their descendants.

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