For my husband’s birthday, we dined at Kachka in SE Portland. It’s been around since 2014, but we had never visited. The story behind Kachka goes back to World War II. The grandmother of co-owner and chef Bonnie Morales escaped the Nazis in Belarus by pretending to be Ukrainian. As the story goes, she was stopped by an official who asked her how to say duck in Ukrainian. She didn’t speak Ukrainian, so she said Kachka, the Belarusian/Yiddish word for duck. Lucky for her, it is also how the Ukrainians say duck. The Nazi official set her free.
Bonnie Morales’ family comes from the same region as my family, except they came over during different eras. Mine fled the Russian pogroms of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Hers left the Soviet Union in the 1980’s. As a result, our traditional meals evolved in significant ways. Her draniki looked very much like the potato latkes (aka potato pancakes) I grew up with, although the texture was more toothsome and the flavor quite different. Latkes at my house are crispy with the distinct flavor of sweet onions. Draniki at Kachka have a nutty taste that comes from rye flour. And the Kachka dumplings—oh, my! Nothing like anything I’ve had before. We ordered the Siberian Pelmeni dumplings with beef, pork, and veal in a sauce made from butter and vinegar. Creamy, tart, and quite delicious! Actually, the entire dinner was extraordinary.