“Your reputation will get a boost today," read a strip of paper, crumbs of chance strewn across the counter of Peekay Wine at Crawford Market, behind which we sat last afternoon with Mr Zyros Zend.
Set against the smell of rum (or what is whisky?) that permeated the store, Mr Zyros, whose family owns Peekay Wine and Yazdani Bakery, was telling this Scouter about why he started a fortune cookie business 15 years ago.
Between booze and bread, which is not a bad place to be, Mr Zyros still wanted to find his own niche. “I first saw these fortune cookies on board a cruise liner where I worked for a few years. I came back to Mumbai, and started Zyraa’s Fortune Cookies, named after one of my daughters.” Today, Zyraa’s cookies greet you at the end of many Chinese meals in Mumbai and Delhi including at five star hotels (San-Qi at The Four Seasons, Ming Yang at Taj Lands End), All Stir Fry, Red Ninja.
While Yazdani bakery helped with the cookie recipe, did the booze from Peekay help with fortune writing?
“No, no. The fortunes are written by an old Chinese man who sits at the back of the store in a dark room, candle in front of him,” joked Mr Zyros, whose last name, Zend, sounds wise enough to predict the future.
We persist: how do the fortunes get written? “I have a series of Confucius books to take lines from, and some I come up with myself. My daughters, aged 12 and 16, also write a few, but they have to be edited by me before they are fit for consumption,” he said, while showing us pictures of them on his phone. "The older one just got into college."
“No, no. The fortunes are written by an old Chinese man who sits at the back of the store in a dark room, candle in front of him.”
While these cookies are sent to restaurants, they can also be ordered by individuals, with personalised fortunes (write your own fate?) or branded logos. “Proposals are very common. But nowadays, divorce party fortune cookies have also become popular. Really, I’m telling you”.
What fortunes do those cookies contain? “Advice to guests on why they shouldn’t get married,” laughs Mr Zyros. Before we could ask for an example, we were interrupted by a customer looking to buy alcohol for a wedding party of 300. Without blinking, Mr Zyros estimated the number of rum, whisky, vodka, beer, wine bottles he should buy. The customer thought they were too little, but our Fortuner asked him to trust his experience.
“Haan so where was I? Yes, divorce parties. But there are also nice things. Like a wife who put sweet messages in 30 cookies for her husband, one for each day of the month.”
Mr Zyros gave us another fortune cookie plus a Good Day biscuit while the wedding booze quantity debate continued. “The best was when someone asked me to fit a diamond ring in a cookie with a fortune that read: your life will change in the next five seconds. Normally I charge Rs 12-18 per cookie, but for this diamond one I said I'll take at least Rs 101 for luck," he joked.
We hoped Mr Zyros would allow us to visit his fortune cookie plant, but no such luck. “How do we get the fortune in the cookie? It’s a state secret. It’s that old Chinese man in the back. No, let’s just say it’s a hygiene issue to get visitors to the plant,” he smiled.
Not to be the grinches who ruin Christmas, but there are several YouTube videos that show how it’s done.
During some more cookie chomping, chatting and fortune rolling, the customer at the Peekay Wine counter finally said, “Mr Zyros, it’s a Catholic wedding.”
“Arey baba, take more rum and beer then,” Mr Zyros said, forecasting his last fortune for the day. We could see that line in a cookie.
Getting there: Zyraa’s Fortune Cookie from Fortune Cookie India, visit www.fortunecookie.in, call 22035586, Rs 12 for a regular fortune cookie, Rs 18 for one with a customized fortune.
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