Nataliya Nahurska and her family had plans for many years to start a food business. The Russian invasion of Ukraine last year compelled her to share her culture. “After what happened last year, I felt people need to know about Ukrainian food and Ukrainian traditions and this is what I can do,” Nahurska said.
Nahurska, her husband and their four children volunteered to cook at their church for years, so they had experience making these dishes for large groups of people. They spent months perfecting their recipes. Nahurska’s children noticed an opening at Vancouver Mall in the back left corner of the food court. Nahurska opened her Ukrainian restaurant, Banderyky, there in mid-August. The short menu offers Nahurska’s take on Ukrainian classics as well as a Ukrainian-inspired hot dog with cabbage salad, pickled carrot salad, house sauce and a side of chips ($10).
Large color photos dot the space to give customers a peek at the offered dishes, including the restaurant’s namesake savory crepes filled with chicken ($4). The short menu also offers a generous mound of varenyky, dumplings that resemble pierogi. They are filled with potato and cheddar cheese, and topped with caramelized onion, sour cream and cabbage salad ($12). Also on the menu: traditional beet soup (borscht) with sour cream and a garlic dinner roll ($8), stuffed cabbage rolls (holubtsi, $6), and triangle pastries (pyrizhok) filled with pork or beef ($4).
Recipes are inspired by dishes made in Nahurska’s home town of Lviv, but modified to match ingredients available and customers’ palates in her current hometown of Vancouver.
“In the Ukraine, varenyky are made every Sunday before church. They’re made with potatoes and farmers cheese, but here we use cheddar because it’s hard to find farmers cheese. In Ukraine, farmers cheese is available everywhere because everyone has a cow,” Nahurska said.
She tweaked her borscht by making it a bit thicker and vegan. In addition, the business’s namesake dish is made with chicken instead of the traditional minced meat.
Vancouver Mall isn’t typically considered a dining destination, but Ukrainians from places like Lake Oswego, Ore., and Beaverton, Ore., have made a special trip to get a taste of home.
“A lot of Ukrainians came to support us. They were so happy to see this food,” Nahurska said.
In the future, Banderyky may add specials, such as seasonal borscht and desserts like crepes filled with sweet cheese. Nahurska would like to add a white borscht she had on a vacation to the Black Sea in 2004, where a couple hosted her family and served this regional delicacy.
Over a couple trips, I tried the varenyky, banderyky and borscht (which comes with a garlic roll). The varenyky is served as a heaping stack of silky rounded pasta filled with potatoes and cheese. The banderyky are four tender triangular crepes filled with chicken.
When I opened the top of the borscht, dill and garlic wafted from the plastic container. Tender strings of cabbage, bits of beets and potatoes, and small beans filled the light, aromatic broth. My grandmother was from Poland and often made borscht for my father. I was never interested in trying the bright red soup that filled our freezer, but sampling the borscht at Banderyky made me reconsider my aversion. I look forward to sipping this rejuvenating tonic during the cooler months.