Numbers on the Back of Fortune Cookies

Some fortune inserts in Chinese fortune cookies have 6 2-digit numbers printed on the back of them. What is the significance of these?

Other such inserts have Chinese characters on the back of them. I assume these state what the messages were translated from.


Those are supposed to be the lucky numbers for you to pick in your local lottery.

No, no, no… that’s your real fortune, but in code.

See, the english text you read is the “feel good” fortune - the one that, for marketing purposes, they want you to think is your fortune. They say thing like, “You will have a productive and satisfying career!”, or “You are helpful and kind to strangers!”

However, there is a secret code that maps the number you see into your real fortune. When decoded, they say things like, “You would be wise to get an MRI scan of your left temporal lobe, SOON!”, or, “you will be hit by a bus on the way home from work tomorrow, and suffer a crippling neck injury.”

For obvious reasons, they can’t just come out and tell you this sort of stuff (they’d never sell the cookies then!), so they put it in code that you can only decipher if you know how.

peas on earth

Aren’t furtune cookies an American invention?
(Chop Suey too?)


Yeah. Both were created by Chinese-Americans, IIRC. Although both were likely based on similar things back in China.

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

Yes, fortune cookies are recent. They became popular in North America in the fifties, IIRC. Before that, the popular finish to a Chinese dinner was an almond cake, pretty much a sort of shortbread cookie with ground almonds. Much better than fortune cookies!

See a recipe at .

There was supposed to be a sig on that. :frowning:

Bob the Random Expert
“If we don’t have the answer, we’ll make one up.”

The Chinese equivalent of “Inspected by Inspector no. 18”? :slight_smile:

Hmm. Quite a choice here. Will the real SD please stand up.

Another clue is that all six of the 2-digit numbers are always less than 50. No leading zero is used with numbers less than 10. Most of the sets of numbers are magenta, but some are green.

Here’s how they make the cookies these days:

Should I ask them next time if I can have a shortbread cookie with ground almonds instead?

Do they still sell chop suey. I haven’t seen it on a menu for probably 25 yr at least.

Ray (throws fortunes to the wind)

Yes, Ray, you should ask for an almond cake (or cookie). They probably won’t have them, but if enough people keep asking they might make a comeback.

Bob the Random Expert
“If we don’t have the answer, we’ll make one up.”