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.
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.
Merlin Lowe, Owner of Hong Kong Noodle Company
Lee, Jennifer 8. The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. New York, NY: Twelve Books, 2008.