Chef Nikky Phinyawatana waves to me from the window as I arrive to her flagship Asian Mint location at Forest Lane and North Central Expressway. In her usual, happy spirits, she is ready for a day jam-packed with cooking, catering and preparing for the opening of her new Asian Mint location in Richardson. Still, in her ever-busy schedule, she makes time to have lunch with me.
Upon arriving to our table, she orders us drinks. She insists on having me try the Butterfly Pea Flower Limeade.
“This is one of my favorites,” Nikky says.
The base of the drink is a fruity, carbonated water, which comes with a ramekin of pea flower extract. When you pour the extract into the base, the solution turns completely purple.
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The Butterfly Pea Flower Limeade is just one of many Thai-influenced items Nikky has to offer Asian Mint customers. Nikky first opened her first Asian Mint location in 2004, after embarking on a personal journey toward self-actualization.
“When I was young, I was trying to figure out my life,” Nikky says. “I got out of a corporate job and moved to Dallas. I had been living in Boston at the time. I graduated from college, stayed there, worked for a while, then 9/11 hit and things weren’t going well.”
Upon arriving to Dallas, Nikky’s dad asked her to help with his food delivery business.
“I said ‘sure, I’m going to do that for two years while I figure out what I want to do with my life, and we’ll go from there,’” Nikky recalls.
During that time, Nikky waited tables, sung in a band and studied pastry at El Centro. She originally wanted to open a dessert bar, however, she felt that Dallas was in need of more Bangkok-influenced Thai food.
“Thai was fairly new to Dallas 15 years ago,” Nikky says. “I’ve always loved to cook for people and to feed people. I wanted to create something where the guests wouldn’t leave feeling like they were over soy or that they had eaten too much fried food. This is how it all came together.”
Nikky and her husband both hail from Bangkok and their Thai roots helped inspire much of Asian Mint’s cuisine. Nikky believes that food should be equally healthy for the body as well as for the soul.
“Food is medicine,” Nikky says. “It’s not all about filling your tummy, it’s about how food makes you feel. I get people who come here from their doctor’s appointments, and this is their safe haven. They come here and feel fresh.”
Much of Asian Mint’s dishes utilize vegetables and herbs. Notably, her curry contains turmeric, ginger, galangal or lemongrass, depending on what the guest chooses. All of these are hailed as healing ingredients.
“Turmeric is very anti-inflammatory,” Nikky says. “I tell them, ‘your body craves these things because it knows that’s what it needs.’ We use a lot of fresh vegetables and herbs. We use a lot of mint, paprika, and other healing ingredients.”
According to Nikky, 75 percent of Asian Mint’s dishes are gluten free and nearly every dish can be made to be vegetarian or vegan. She enjoys being able to encourage healthy eating habits in guests of all ages.
“I love when I can get a young kid excited about eating something different, like edamame or seaweed salad,” Nikky says. “They become hooked on these different flavor profiles and this really expands their palette.”
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Nikky believes it is important for her guests to know where their food comes from. Last fall, during her travels to Bangkok, she documented her visits to shops and food stalls and decided to create a YouTube series.
“I had met a couple of amazing people while I was in Thailand and I started talking to them,” Nikky recalls. “I said to them, ‘You know what? I really want to share with my Mint fanatics where our food comes from.’ It just organically happened.”
Over the course of two days, Nikky interviewed several merchants and farmers in Bangkok. The footage was then edited and divided into multiple segments, later becoming her web series, Nikky Feeding Souls, which launched this past January.
Upon the opening of Asian Mint’s Richardson location, Nikky hopes to feed even more souls.
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“They’re going to come into an environment with positive energy,” Nikky says. “They’re going to leave feeling inspired to change the world and have fun with life.”
Asian Mint opens in Richardson this September.
300 W. Campbell Rd #140, Richardson
- Monday – Friday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m
- Saturday: 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
More: 469.677.0767 | asianmint.com