On occasion, we eat something so delicious that the only logical response can be, “for real?!” This is followed by indistinguishable murmurings of delight while taking a significantly larger bite.
Taste any offering from Jinjja, a fresh on the scene pop-up serving authentic Korean dishes, and we can just about guarantee this will be your reaction.
Eunji Han cooks from her mom’s hand-written Korean recipes. In May, Han’s friends at Bad Bishop Bar in Pioneer Square asked if she would be interested in hosting a pop-up night at the bar to feature some of her recipes. Knowing she couldn’t go it alone, she reached out to an old friend from childhood, Sara Upshaw. Together the duo formed Jinjja, a Korean women-owned pop-up.
In Korean, the word “jinjja” translates to “really” or “for real.” Upshaw explained they chose this name when they started using this expression when they tasted the food the pair had created, surprised by how tasty it was.
“We have very similar philosophies about Korean food, and we work really well together in the kitchen,” Han said.
Creating the menu for Jinjja is a thoughtful process. Han and Upshaw are incorporating local and seasonal ingredients, as traditional Korean food always does. They’re also honoring holidays - both Korean and American. Making the food is often a process that takes several weeks, while some items ferment and other menu items take up to 15 different ingredients to create.
"We’re making sure that we’re providing authentic Korean food and dishes that haven’t been super commercialized,” Han said. “We’re trying to really adapt more traditional techniques but also making sure it’s playful, fun and seasonal.”
With a unique menu for each pop-up, the Jinjja women highlight Han’s mother’s recipes as well as Upshaw’s love of bringing people together through food. Their latest pop-up features Dosirak, a Korean lunch box packed with dishes like braised lotus root, seasonal mushrooms, braised tofu, purple rice and meat jun - a marinated Korean meat.
Each menu also features side dishes - banchan in Korean, and a staple of each meal. Jinjja’s banchan includes kimchi from a recipe Han’s mother developed. Kkakdugi is another shining star - a diced, spicy radish kimchi.
“When we make the menu, we’re kind of thinking about what we would be eating if we were in Korea during that season,” Upshaw said. “We’re making sure we’re featuring different ingredients that normally wouldn’t be mainstream.”
Jinjja has settled into a cadence of hosting two pop-ups per month. Some are at their initial home of Bad Bishop and others are at Fast Penny Spirits, and the duo plan to expand to other areas in Pioneer Square as well as further north in Greenwood soon.
“Sarah and I are passionate about creating community, especially around food and sharing food,” Han said. “Especially when I talk to women looking to get into food pop-ups or just interested in connecting and building community. We definitely want to be a beacon for that in Seattle.”
The two point out how incredible the Seattle community has been in welcoming their endeavor despite the pandemic.
“We realized instantly from the beginning that we can’t do this without our community,” Upshaw said. “We couldn’t be here without them, and so we always want to give our gratitude. It’s really been so heartwarming to see that people just really want to support us.”
Catch a Jinjja pop-up in Seattle by checking out their schedule online. Pre-order early to ensure availability as Jinjja tends to sell out early. Each menu is designed to be enjoyed family-style.