I traveled in Mongolia recently for two weeks, but when I came back to my home state of Colorado, I really missed the delicious Mongol food. So upon returning, I began a search. I wanted to find a traditional Mongolian restaurant in Denver. Unfortunately this task was a lot harder than it seemed.
At first I went on Google. I searched every possible combination of words, and I could find absolutely nothing in Denver. I only came across “Mongolian BBQ” restaurants which are not actual Mongolian food! I searched and searched but to no avail.
When I was traveling in Mongolia, I met a man who told me his daughter lives in Colorado and teaches on the weekends at a local Mongolian school. Apparently there is a large expat community in Denver, and many of the parents want their children to learn Mongol language. Clearly the community in Denver must be large enough to warrant an actual weekend Mongolian school for children. Knowing this I figured there must be some restaurants, but I had no luck.
I began to think that maybe if I tracked down this school, I could send them an email and ask if they knew of any restaurants. The school was easy to find on Facebook so I shot them a message and waited for a reply. A few weeks later I finally got a friend request from a Mongolian account on Facebook that started messaging me about Mongolian restaurants in Denver.
This person I was talking to told me that unfortunately there are no Mongolian restaurants in Denver, but they said a lady named Tuya makes really good Mongolian food and sells it out of her house. They gave me her phone number and told me to contact her. They warned me though that Tuya doesn’t really speak English.
My initial reaction was – “this sounds sketch.” I can’t just go to someones home and eat there, right? I messaged my Mongolian friend, Misheel, back in DC about this and she said it’s actually quite common for Mongolian’s to eat at each others homes in their expat communities. This is pretty much the only way to get traditional Mongolian food unless you make it yourself.
With that in mind, I started texting with Tuya and arranged for a dinner at her place later that weekend. After some texting back and forth we set a time and orders then she gave me her address in Aurora.
Speed up to Sunday night and now my dad, sister, and I were heading out to get Mongolian food at Tuya’s house. It was a little difficult to find at first, but when we arrived Tuya greeted us and told us to have a seat at her table. We could already smell the delicious food cooking on the stove. At this point we realized Tuya pretty much speaks no English so I assumed she had a relative help with the texting.
It wasn’t too difficult to communicate with her for the basics we needed. She served us Banshtai Tsai and Khushuur. It was seriously amazing and my family kept saying how much they loved it. It was some of the best food they’ve ever had. As Tuya doesn’t speak any English, I got a chance to show off some of my Mongolian. My sister wanted water so I looked over at Tuya and said “uus” meaning water in Mongolian. Tuya knew exactly what I was saying and went off to the fridge to grab a few cold bottles of water. Major cultural points for me.
Towards the end of dinner one of Tuya’s friends came over that spoke much better English. She was able to help us translate and I spoke a little with Tuya about my travels in Mongolia showing her some pics on my phone.
Overall this was an incredible experience and now I am so proud to know a secret spot in Denver to get Mongolian food. Tuya told me to come back whenever I like. If you’re in Denver and interested in getting involved in the Mongolian expat community, leave a comment and maybe I can help you out. I don’t want to blast Tuya’s information online, but if you are Mongolian or have lived there before, I can get you in touch.