By Cassandra VanKeuren Special to the Herald
I have to admit, kimchi terrifies me.
That is why I have put off going to Han Kang for a while. I really did not want to eat the notorious stinky cabbage dish.
But the adventurous side of me won out and I packed my husband and my 9-year-old son in the car and headed south to Lynnwood to see what Korean food was all about.
Han Kang is in a strip mall near the Lynnwood library. We walked in and were met by a sweet and welcoming waitress. She sat us down quickly in a private booth and left us to decipher the menu. When she brought us our green tea, she must have recognized the puzzled look on our faces and gave us some recommendations for our meals.
With her help, my son ordered the Korean barbecue ribs, Johk-Kal-Bi ($17.99). My husband ordered hot beef soup, Yuk-Gae-Jahng Man Doo ($10.99), and I ordered a type of soup that has no English translation but is know as army base soup ($19.99).
Before our food arrived, the waitress brought banchan to our table.
Banchan, for those who do not know, is several small, cold Korean side dishes. You eat them as a compliment to your meal.
We were served spicy pickled cucumbers, green beans, potato salad, cooked and chilled spinach, cooked bean sprouts, spicy dikon radish, marinated tofu, a type of cold egg casserole and, of course, kimchi.
The kimchi, I think, was freshly made and had a nice earthiness and spice. Not at all what I expected. Most of the bachan dishes we enjoyed, though a few were a little funky.
My son’s barbecue ribs came out first, served on a sizzling platter over a bed of onions. My son was extremely impressed to have his dish sizzling in front of him. The small bite I stole from his dish was excellent. The ribs were sweet and pleasantly chewy. The onions had caramelized with the barbecue sauce and were incredibly sweet and tasty.
My army base soup came out in a huge bowl set over its own burner. I learned later that my bubbling cauldron was named army base because it was first created during the Korean war using any means of food that was salvaged or handed out from the U.S. army bases.
Army base soup has many variations and my version consisted of spam, hot dogs, sausage, sliced beef, tofu and kimchi. The broth was red and had a pleasant balance of spiciness. The hot dogs were a little odd but the other meats were delicious.
I added some of the banchan dishes to the soup to customize the taste. Served with rice, the dish overall was really satisfying, especially on a rainy spring day. Plenty enough for two or three adult meals.
My husband’s soup had dumplings that looked like pot stickers. The meat was shredded brisket and there were glass noodles, all swimming in a spicy red broth. My husband enjoyed it immensely. Definitely a comforting soup for spring allergies.
Han Kang proved to be an adventurous place for the whole family as we ventured to eat food layered in spiciness and mystique.
The wait staff was attentive and helpful so our whole experience was fantastic. We can’t wait to try more of the dishes — including the kimchi.
19505 44th Ave., W., Lynnwood; 425-774-8540; www.hankangsite.com.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily