The majority of food historians suspect that the modern form of this prophesying confection originated not in China but in one of two American cities. Around the start of the 20th century Makoto Hagiwara, a Japanese-American caretaker of Golden Gate Park’s Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, reputedly gave out notes of gratitude embedded in cookies after a sympathetic mayor gave him his job back.
His inspiration might have been similarly folded cookies that have been made in bakeries in Japan for generations. Around 20 years later in Los Angeles, Chinese immigrant David Jung – founder of the Hong Kong Noodle Company – supposedly handed out cookies containing inspiring messages to the city’s poor. Yet exactly how either of their creations later became associated with westernised Chinese cuisine isn’t clear.
Answered by Michael Simpson