An Austin chef is showcasing the breadth of South Asian cuisines through his new pop-up. Chef Sakif Khan debuted Good Jinn last fall, with more planned events this year, including a forthcoming Lunar New Year festivity.
Khan’s general approach to Good Jinn is South Asian, or as he describes it, “the roots of it are very South Asian and Bangladeshi,” with room for expanding into and meshing with other cuisines. “I’m Bangladeshi, and a lot of my food is inspired by Bangladesh,” he tells Eater. “But I don’t want to be completely boxed into making only Bangladeshi food.” Khan cites his time working at other restaurants such as the Asian Southern restaurant Peached Tortilla and its catering branch, where he was the executive sous chef. “The whole reason I got into food is because I love being able to connect to other cultures and people through food,” he says.
While Good Jinn’s “will always have a South Asian backbone, I want to be able to connect it to a lot of other cultures,” Khan explains. For him, this means “push[ing] into more Middle Eastern, East Asian, or even American Southern foods.”
That approach leads to one of Good Jinn’s major dishes: the kebab. Khan notes how the roasted meat dishes are a centerpiece of Bangladeshi cuisine, where there are many different iterations. He knows there’s an assumption that when people are presented with South Asian food, they tend to think that it’s Indian, but that’s not always true. “I want to do things that are pushing people’s mind outside of the traditional Indian foods,” he says. The origins of kebabs aren’t a rigid history, with roots in Iraq, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, spreading throughout the South Asian region under the Mughal Empire.
Another item Khan is excited to showcase is flatbreads, such as parathas, naans, and rotis. The pastry world was something he got into while working at Indian-Texas pop-up 33 Tigers, which is known for its naan croissants under founder and chef Deepa Shridhar. “That’s where I really fell in love with the whole Indian pastry game,” he says.
Elsewhere, expect Good Jinn dishes made with mustards — an important base of Bangladeshi cooking — as well as cucumbers and vinegar-based sauces.
Part of the pop-up’s name — jinn — refers to supernatural shape-shifting spirits from Arabic and Islamic myths. Khan liked how the beings can be seen as seemingly evil, but “if you really read into it, jinn aren’t always bad things, jinn can be good and can be misunderstood,” he says. “I like the idea of something that’s a little bit spooky, kind of nefarious but in a fun way.”
The unfixed format of a pop-up worked for Khan’s at-the-moment preferred way of cooking. “I realized that was a niche that I’m really into,” he says, where he’s able to come up with menus and ideas that are “always new and fresh. It allows me to do food in a way that I don’t have to commit so much money and investment.”
Khan, who left Peached Catering in September 2023, debuted Good Jinn that same month as part of the Hawk Luck Night Market. The first-time event featured Asian American vendors and businesses at whiskey distillery Fierce Whiskers. He noted to Eater that, for this event, he didn’t have time to put up a menu sign, but people came over anyway because they were lured over by the scents of kebabs. Khan has also done private dinners, parties, and cooking classes since then.
Through Good Jinn, Khan hopes that he’s able to widen people’s experiences and expectations of what South Asian cuisines really are. “I hope they open their minds to what South Asian food is,” he says. “South Asia has so many different cultures, cuisines, and ingredients — they’re all so vastly different from each other. I can pique their curiosity into looking into other meanings of it.”
Good Jinn’s upcoming public events include the Lunar New Year party at Fierce Whiskers on Saturday, February 3, and a pop-up at cafe/bar Community Garden on Saturday, February 17.