May 18, 2009

Fortune Cookie Chronicles, book review

New York Times metro reporter researches and writes about Chinese food in her memoir, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food, 2009.

An interesting question in her book:

"It gnawed at me. Could fortune cookies have been introduced to the United States by the Japanese?"

Many people wanted to know the answer to this one: (from Everyday Mysteries

"Two men in the early 1900s in California claimed the credit - a Japanese man who served tea and fortune cookies in 1914 in San Francisco, and a Chinese man of the Hong Kong Noodle Company in Los Angeles who stuffed Biblical messages in cookies. A judge ruled that Japanese-American Makoto Hagiwara of San Francisco was the real inventor of the fortune cookie!"

Jennifer 8 Lee tackles other questions about Chinese food as well in her memoir -the origin of chop suey, American stir-fry, and the phenomenon of multiple lottery winners on March 30, 2005 who bet on the same numbers provided by their fortune cookies!

The book details Chinese restaurants in the U.S. and around the world in places such as Australia, Brazil, Toyko, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. There are explanatory notes on each chapter at the end of the book, and an impressive bibliography.

The author certainly did her homework for this one! However, I was prepared for a memoir rather than a book of such detailed restaurant and food research. The information wasn't new or unusual enough and much of it seemed to me to be already common knowledge. Correct me if I'm wrong!

(Jennifer 8 Lee thanked me on Twitter for reading her book. She has a blog for more Chinese food information at The Fortune Cookie Chronicles)

Book provided by the publisher, for my objective review.



  1. Oooh, I really want to read this book. It looks like a good read. :)

    I'm glad to hear that you liked it.

    ~ Popin

  2. PopinFresh: It was an interesting book but a bit dry, not at all like a memoir. A lot of research went into it so it does read like a series of articles/news reports. But the information re Chinese food is there.


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