Until very recently, this Dayton.com writer had never eaten Thai food.
Suffering from a severe peanut allergy, I had always steered clear of Thai restaurants — from a young age, I was told that cross-contamination was too big of a possibility, and as a result I always looked on in envy as friends raved over their Pad Thai and Massaman Curry.
But then a miracle occurred: I discovered that in recent years, many Thai places, especially higher-end restaurants, have opted to use vegetable or other neutral oils in their cooking, leaving the peanuts to the specific plates and significantly diminishing the chance of cross-contamination. Since then, it’s opened a whole new culinary world for me (though Pad Thai will, sadly, forever be off the menu) and others who suffer from that same peanut affliction, and I’m certainly making up for lost time in getting my Thai food on.
For those who live a bit further down 75 South or who simply are seeking a new Thai spot, consider Centerville's new-ish Nida Thai Cuisine. Opened this past April at 853 E. Franklin St., the family-owned Nida Thai offers friendly dine-in or takeout "fast casual" fare at reasonable prices. Co-owner Pirom Tintong told Dayton Daily News business reporter Mark Fisher that he and his family have worked in Thai restaurants for the past 15 years in San Francisco, New York and Dayton, and their traditional dishes satisfy your taste buds and your belly.
Walk up to their order counter to grab some Thai on the run, but if you have some time, grab a seat either inside their bright and lively restaurant or under an umbrella outside.
A Thai ice coffee or tea ($2.50) is a necessity: Nida Thai's ice coffee is perfectly sweet and refreshing with the traditional cardamom spice along with almond extract giving that signature taste to the coffee, topped with heavy cream. Not only is the taste divine, it helped counterbalance some of the dishes' heat.
Start with some softy rolls as an appetizer ($4), with eight pieces of soft rice paper wrapped around veggies, tofu and cooked egg topped with a tasty honey sweet and sour brown sauce. Crunchy and soft in the same bite, you can't just eat one piece! Better to share with a friend or two to save room for the entrees.
The Tom Yum lemongrass soup ($5) is full of bright and fresh flavors, including lime leaves, galangal (related to the ginger root), mushrooms, tomatoes, cilantro and green onions. Get the hot and sour soup with chicken or shrimp; both will warm you to the core.
For our entrees, my dining companion and I shared the green curry zucchini with all four meat options (chicken, beef, pork and shrimp, $15 with individual meat options at lower prices), and the Paradise Beef, one of Nida Thai's signature dishes ($13). At Nida Thai, spice levels vary from a one (mild heat) to a three (very hot).
The green curry zucchini at level two still had a great kick to it — the green curry paste made with hot chilies, garlic, lemongrass and more blended with coconut milk was a great texture and tasted great with all of the meat options, though I preferred the pork. Add some zucchini, bell peppers and basil leaves to the curry and mix in some white rice and that is a delish dish with enough to save some for a later meal.
If your definition of paradise isn't an intense dry heat that lingers as the meal goes on, then sorry, Milton, but you're lost. Stir-fried into an oyster sauce with mushrooms, carrots, onions and green onions, the Paradise Beef at level three left our lips tingling long after we left the restaurant, but we couldn't stop eating it; the heat just felt too good. Again, the plate was enough for a second meal.
Not only is a dinner for two reasonably priced at Nida Thai, but they offer a weekday lunch special that changes daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. of either two items for $6.99 or three items for $7.99, with a side salad included. Check their Facebook to find out the specials ahead of time. You can substitute fried rice for the traditional steamed rice in the curry dishes and signature dishes for $2, and brown rice or steamed noodles for $1.
Every dish that came out of the kitchen looked chock full of vivid and fresh vegetables and smelled sublime, which is exactly what you want to experience at most any restaurant. The fact that Nida Thai also offers ample portions at great prices, and are peanut allergy-friendly, is just the icing on the cake.
Nida Thai Cuisine
863 E. Franklin St., Centerville
Hours: Mon-Fri 11 a.m.- 9 p.m.; Sat 12 p.m. - 9 p.m.; closed Sunday.
Look for them online at nidathaicuisine.com or find them on Facebook.