Udon is a thick noodles made from flour. There are several theories of the origin of udon. However, one theory is that Kukai who was a Buddhist monk went to China in the 9th century, and brought back the flour particularly to make udon noodles, which was introduced to Kagawa prefecture.
In the Edo period (1603-1867), soba (buck wheat noodles) was not common yet, and udon noodles was more popular. In the later Edo period (1603-1867), there were many hostels that had udon restaurants on the first floor. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), there were peddlers who sold udon on the streets.
There are various types of udon noodles. “Zaru-udon” comes in a bamboo basket and the noodles are dipped in a thin soy based source. “Kake-udon” is a bowl of udon with hot soup, and is also called “su-udon,” meaning plain udon in Kansai region.
There is also “Curry-udon,” which the source is thin curry. “Tanuki-udon,” which “tanuki” means racoon dog, uses small bits of fried batter scattered on the noodles, and is common is Kanto region. “Kitsune-udon,” which “kitsune” means fox, uses fried tofu in top of the noodles, and is common is Kansai region.
The most famous place that produces udon is Kagawa prefecture. The signature udon is called “sanuki-udon.” The characteristic of “sanuki-udon” is that the customers themselves serve udon noodles. Customers order udon noodles, and put their favorite toppings such as tempura, on the bowl. After paying at the counter, they out the broth soup, and put on pickled ginger and dried shaved bonito as the way they prefer. The self service style udon is now adapted to franchise chains too.