You may never look at fortune cookies the same way again.

“I want to change people’s preconceived notions of what a fortune cookie is,” says Alicia Wong, whose family’s Oakland Fortune Factory produces brightly colored, vibrantly flavored candies that bear little resemblance to the bland cookies you’d expect. usually find in your takeout order.

“A fortune cookie represents who I am,” Wong says. “I am a Chinese American. I’m not entirely Chinese, and I’m not entirely American. I’m both, and that’s what a fortune cookie is. You don’t find it in China, but in America, you wouldn’t say it’s an American thing. He is a Chinese-American icon.

When Wong’s mother, Jiamin, took over running the decades-old Chinatown biscuit factory six years ago, the business was struggling. The machines were labor intensive, competition was fierce, and neither of his parents spoke English. When Wong, then living on the East Coast, returned to the Bay Area to help out, she realized she could use fortune cookies “to change people’s thinking about Chinese people and ideas about Asian culture. “.

Oakland Fortune Cookie Factory, co-owned by Alicia Wang, has been part of that city’s Chinatown since the 1950s. (Wangyuxuan Xu/Bay Area News Group)

The company still uses the original recipe from the 1950s, but that’s where all the similarities end. With designs inspired by everything from Chinese porcelain to spring flowers, these crunchy cookies are flavored with matcha, dipped in Belgian or Swiss chocolate and sprinkled with glittery toppings of all kinds.

With the sounds of decades-old cookie machines clanking in the background, Wong talked about the journey of Oakland Fortune Factory and the appeal of the iconic cookies.

Q How did your mother end up running the business?

A. My whole family grew up in Oakland Chinatown. We have come across (this place) all the time. (Six years ago) my dad was injured on the job, my mom worked regularly in Chinatown, they were both getting older. She worried about how they were going to support themselves. One day a friend (of my mother) told her that this place was closing. So she came in, saw the machine and how everything worked. And she was like, “Okay, it’s a challenge, but it’s something I can do.”

That was part of the reason, but she also wanted to keep the place open. It has been around for so long and many businesses in Chinatown have already changed. Some of the places I grew up in, they’re all gone. She felt it would be a loss if this place disappeared too.

Q You have created so many new flavors and colors for cookies. What inspires this creativity?

A. Growing up, I was always ashamed of being Chinese. Everyone was saying things like, “It’s so cheap. It’s made in China. Every time they say that, I almost feel sorry. They make us feel cheap, because there are so many of us. That’s part of why I’m so obsessed with making our cookies in different flavors and colors, because people just don’t expect it.

Alicia Wang, co-owner of Oakland Fortune Factory, makes large personalized fortune cookies as well as smaller cookies dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with sparkles and other toppings.  (Wangyuxuan Xu/Bay Area News Group)
Alicia Wang, co-owner of Oakland Fortune Factory, makes large personalized fortune cookies as well as smaller cookies dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with sparkles and other toppings. (Wangyuxuan Xu/Bay Area News Group)

Q Can you talk about these designs?

A. I constantly come up with designs. For the 50th anniversary of Apollo Space Mission, I made a shiny silver chrome cookie. It’s chocolate, but it has a silver color on it and a star. It looks very futuristic.

The Black Lives Matter movement (2020) was the first time we made a cookie that was more than something pretty. We made black cookies that have BLM letters on them, and the messages inside are quotes and questions from civil rights leaders. My partner wanted the cookies to spark conversation because that’s what we really needed – people talking to each other and asking these questions. That’s when I realized we could do something bigger and better with our cookies.

Q You also make personalized orders with personalized messages. What is your favorite kind of fortune?

A. We get all kinds – scorching orders, meaningful messages. One of my favorites would be the proposals, because our cookies are going to be part of a very important keepsake.

Q What are you working on now?

A. I focus on messages inside fortune cookies. I want to make cookies for mental health awareness with self love messages. We made cookies for Pride with messages from LGBTQ civil rights leaders. I want to do more where the messages are meaningful, and when people open it, they read it and keep it in their wallet. They think about it. This is how I change: I came across quotes during Black Lives Matter that made me question myself: Am I racist? Have I ever done something like this? It’s my mission in life now, to use cookies for good and to change people.

Q What was Oakland Chinatown like when you were growing up?

A. We went out to dinner more often in the evening because the shops opened later and there were a lot more people walking around. There were more mom-and-pop stores. There were only two boba places: Sweet Booth and Quickly.

Q But I saw that Sweet Booth was closed.

A. I say. I cried a lot when they closed. Now we have more boba stores. I feel like we’re kicked out in a way, because a lot of stores are being replaced. I hope we will keep what is Chinatown.


If you are going to

The Oakland Fortune Factory is open for walk-in orders from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays at 261 12th St. in Oakland, and for online shopping at www.oaklandfortunefactory.com.

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