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Travel Report: Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant, Siem Reap.

Dakshin's Indian Restaurant Siem Reap.

Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant, Siem Reap.

April 2020.

I’ve said it before on these pages of mine. In fact, dear readers, I’ve no doubt expressed it too many times. But hey, I’ll throw it out there again, just for the sake of consistency you understand. I absolutely love Indian food!

It was my mum and dad who got me into Indian cuisine during my teenage years living across England and Scotland. Later, in 2004, I actually spent a month travelling around India as a 25 year old. Moreover, I have come to realise that no matter where I find myself in the world, I’m usually just around the corner from a great Indian restaurant.

Chingari Restaurant Radisson Blu Doha.

At Chingari Indian Restaurant, Doha. November 2001.

Luckily for me, Siem Reap is a city virtually bursting at the seams with places offering creamy curries. Curious as to which restaurant was generally considered the best, Sladja and I did a bit of research and, ta-dah!, up popped Dakshin’s.

Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant, Siem Reap.

Dakshin's where to eat Siem Reap.

Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant, Siem Reap.

It wasn’t a difficult decision to take a chance on Dakshin’s. After all, this is a place championed by none other than Lonely Planet. Furthermore, in 2013 TripAdvisor voted Dakshin’s Best Restaurant in Siem Reap. Our first visit here came in January, back when the world was a (relatively) normal place.

Dinner at Dakshin's Indian Restaurant Siem Reap.

A very Dakshin’s dinner.

Needless to say, I was mightily impressed with our Chicken Tikka Masala, Cheese NaanJeera Rice and complimentary poppadoms. Hence we decided on a repeat performance a month later for Valentine’s night. Again, the food was delicious and we went home with full, happy stomachs.

Visit Dakshin's Indian Restaurant Siem Reap.It wasn’t until we kicked off our series on Siem Reap’s cafes and restaurants that I learned more about the Dakshin’s story. The restaurant is owned by Mr. B Pannirselvam, who kindly invited us to come and chat with him one sleepy April afternoon.

Mr. B Pannirselvam Dakshin's Indian Restaurant Siem Reap.

Pannir, Aka Mr. Dakshin’s.

Mr. Pannirselvam, known simply as Pannir to his friends, was born in Singapore where he grew up watching his mother and grandma working their magic in the kitchen. Don’t ask him for any details about those old family recipes though, his lips are sealed!

As an adult, his passion for cooking and eating Indian food eventually led him to the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, where he opened an upscale Indian restaurant called East India Curry.

News of his amazing dishes soon saw local dignitaries visiting. On several occasions, he even found himself welcoming members of the Cambodian royal family! After thirteen fantastic years there, a regular guest made him an “irresistible offer” to buy the place, and that was that.

Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant, Siem Reap.

Waiter Dakshin's Indian Restaurant Siem Reap.

“Your Mango Lassi, sir!” Dakshin’s service supervisor Ly Thou.

“Ah yes, the mango lassis” growled Pannir, with an approving twitch of his moustache. He had virtually insisted we try them while waiting for our starters to arrive. My first impression of Pannir was that he’s quite a serious and reserved man. However, he soon opened up, with more than a glint of nostalgia in his eyes as he talked about those Phnom Penh days.

His face also lit up when the conversation briefly switched to football. “So you’re a QPR fan!” he grinned, before revealing that it was his dream to one day see a match in London.

Vegetable samosas poppadoms mango lassi Dakshin's Indian Restaurant

Vegetable samosas with poppadoms.

“Try to go into my spice pantry and I will chop your hand off!” 

Buoyed by the success of East India Curry, Pannir came to Siem Reap in 2012. There were numerous challenges in opening Dakshin’s he says, although in this regard having a Khmer wife certainly helped.

His biggest issue in those early days was the sourcing of the very best spices. According to Paneer, this is one of the most important things in maintaining the quality of his food. As a result, he keeps the secrets of Dakshin’s spices under lock and key.

Dakshin's The Flavour of India Siem Reap.

Photo courtesy of Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant, Siem Reap.

“I’m not an easy guy to work for. I’m a perfectionist, always demanding high standards!”

Equally important, he stresses, is his small but loyal team of Indian chefs. In fact, Pannir has spent much time scouring India for what he describes as “the right chefs with the right attitude”.

It’s not enough that a potential Dakshin’s chef be talented, they also need to be passionate about their cooking. To put their hearts and souls into what ends up on your plate. “Even my mother gets nervous when I sit at her table” he chuckles. “She knows how fussy I am”.

Dakshin's Best Indian restaurant Siem Reap.

In return for their hard work, Pannir offers his staff more than just a competitive salary. He describes the team at Dakshin’s as “my family”. He says it’s important that they’re happy, in order to carry out their best work.

For example, he recalls a chef whose father was taken ill. This, considered Pannir, was his own problem too. An issue that had to be solved together for the good of everyone involved, including Dakshin’s.

Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant, Siem Reap.

The kitchen at Dakshin's Restaurant Siem Reap.

Meet the Dakshin’s chefs!

Pannir is so confident in his team that his restaurant features an open view kitchen, the only such cooking space among Siem Reap’s Indian restaurants. Indeed I was able to go and have a quick look that day as a team of three began work on our main courses. I still chuckle at their serious expressions and remember thinking, ok these guys really mean business! 

Dakshin's Restaurant Siem Reap The Flavour of India

Sladja and I asked Pannir what he was most proud of. This, he admits, is a tough one. Maybe it’s the Model Expat Award he received from the President of Singapore. Or the charity event he organised in Siem Reap for Angkor Children Hospital last year.

That was a huge, all-you-can-eat, pay-what-you-want dinner, with over twenty dishes prepared. Singapore’s ambassador to Cambodia flew in, along with a singer who Pannir describes as “the Bob Dylan of Singapore”. Oh how I wish I’d seen that!

Charity event Dakshin's Indian Restaurant Siem Reap.

The charity event for Royal Angkor Children’s Hospital.

“I couldn’t have pulled it off without the support of the local community” he admits. It certainly was a mammoth team effort! Silk Garden agreed to host the event, while the cocktail bar Miss Wong provided extra staff. Elsewhere, Les Celliers sponsored the wine and The Raffles Grand Hotel chipped in with the table setting and food layout.

When our mains arrived that afternoon, Pannir politely rose and left us to our devices. And what a spread it was! Far more than we could eat as it turned out. The Butter Chicken was so incredibly creamy. Just perfect alongside the saffron-infused biriyani and essential for garlic naan dipping.

Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant, Siem Reap.

Dinner at Dakshin's Restaurant Siem Reap

Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant, Siem Reap.

The Tandoori Chicken meanwhile was perfectly cooked, while there was a genius diversion of flavours and spices with the Dal Makhani and an earthy Bhindi Okra Masala.

As a personal touch, Pannir was also keen for us to try a little paratha, a flaky Asian flatbread of Indian origin but highly popular in Singapore and Malaysia. Pannir told us he had his own special way of eating paratha, which involves soaking it in either fish or chicken gravy. After three minutes, he dives in!

The Best Indian food in Siem Reap.

Meet the chefs Dakshin's Indian Restaurant Siem Reap.

A job well done at Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant.

I was so delighted with the food, I made sure to go and thank the chefs. They were outside in the alley behind the restaurant getting some air. Much more relaxed now that they had delivered their masterpieces. According to Pannir, he also feels proud to have kept the place open throughout the crisis. And, most crucial of all, that he didn’t lay anybody off.

They have a delivery service of course, along with various promotions and discounts. I know I’ll be taking advantage of this in the near future. One of these nights, in the middle of a blog marathon, I just know I’m gonna get a hankering for that sublime Butter Chicken!

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Fancy a creamy curry? How about a mango lassi? Get in touch with Dakshin’s through their Facebook page.

For more on Siem Reap’s excellent cafe, restaurant and bar scene, check out my detailed guide on Where to Eat and Drink Siem Reap.

You can also read my exhaustive overview of What to See and Do in Siem Reap.

Looking for a roof over your head? Check out my articles on Where to Stay in Siem Reap.

To read about my long ago travels around India, take a look at my short story collection Incidents in India.

I’ve been living, working and traveling all over the world since 2001. So why not check out my huge library of travel reports from over 30 countries.

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  • Neeraja

    Nice blog👍

    May 1, 2020 - 1:35 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Neerja, thanks for reading!

      May 1, 2020 - 2:14 pm Reply
  • Anya Abraham

    I hail from south India and the pappadams and samosas are calling out to me! It’s wonderful reading that you like our food and that there’s someone authentic serving it.

    May 1, 2020 - 3:29 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Anya, thank you so much for reading and the kind words. This was a really fun piece to write.

      May 1, 2020 - 3:44 pm Reply
      • Anya Abraham

        Was equally fun to read 😁

        May 1, 2020 - 3:45 pm
  • 100 Country Trek

    I didn’t realize they serve Indian food in Siem Reap…been to Cambodia but not Siem Reap…food looks great.

    May 3, 2020 - 5:12 pm Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey Anita, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. Yeah, I feel like SR is an underrated gem when it comes to food and drink. We will be publishing an exhaustive guide to the city’s cafe and restaurant scene over the next month. Take care.

      May 3, 2020 - 5:25 pm Reply
  • shoestringdiary

    We got so hungry for Indian food after reading this blog we’re dining on Indian dishes tonight which Nina will be making. (Can’t go out and dine at an Indian resto these days.) 🙂

    May 11, 2020 - 11:11 am Reply
    • Leighton

      Hey guys, thanks a lot for reading and taking the time to comment. This same restaurant also delivered for us the other day, on the house. Lovely people and just amazing food. Enjoy your feast and stay healthy!

      May 11, 2020 - 11:14 am Reply

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