Dining at Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant.
Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant, Siem Reap.
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.
Luckily for me, Siem Reap was 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.
It wasn’t a difficult decision to take a chance on Dakshin’s. After all, this is a place championed by a number of heavyweight travel publications, including Lonely Planet. Furthermore, in 2013 TripAdvisor voted Dakshin’s Best Restaurant in Siem Reap. Our first visit here came in January 2020, back when the world was a (relatively) normal place.
Needless to say, I was mightily impressed with our Chicken Tikka Masala, Cheese Naan, Jeera 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.
It wasn’t until I kicked off my 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. 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!
Where to Eat & Drink in Siem Reap.
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 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.
“Ah yes, the mango lassis” growled Pannir, with an approving twitch of his moustache. He had virtually insisted that we try them while waiting for our starters. 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 old Phnom Penh days.
His face also lit up when the conversation briefly switched to football. “So you’re a QPR supporter!” he grinned, before revealing that it was his lifelong dream to one day see a match in London.
Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant, Siem Reap.
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 sourcing 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.
“Try to go into my spice pantry and I will chop your hand off!”
– Mr. B Pannirselvam.
Equally important, he stresses, is his small but loyal team of Indian chefs. In fact, Pannir has spent months 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”.
“I’m not an easy guy to work for. I’m a perfectionist, always demanding the highest standards!”
– Mr. B Pannirselvam.
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” and 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.
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. It still makes me smile to see their serious expressions, which made me think: ok these guys really mean business!
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.
The event 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.
“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 incredibly creamy, just perfect alongside the saffron-infused biriyani and essential for garlic naan dipping.
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 that’s highly popular in Singapore and Malaysia.
We loved the food so much, I made sure to go and thank the chefs. I found them outside in the alley behind the restaurant getting some air. Much more relaxed now that they had delivered their masterpieces. Pannir says he is proud that through the entire CoronaMess he didn’t lay off a single member of staff.
“Imagine having to send one of my chefs back to India in the middle of all this” he ponders, drumming his fingers on the table. “Unthinkable”.
Update: November 2022. I’m happy to report that Dakshin’s has survived the pandemic and that both its Siem Reap and Phnom Penh branches are still going. Congratulations to Pannir and his team for getting through those tough times! 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.
You just cannot beat a Ruby Murray!
Indeed, Indian food will always be heaven for me. Note to readers: “A Ruby Murray” is Cockney slang for “curry”. Thanks for your comment!
Now I’m hungry!
Thanks for your comment, Ruth.
pannirselvam sounds like a layered character. on the one hand he is clearly a man of principle who takes great care of his workforce. on the other hand he would appear tough to work for a real taskmaster to say the least. another great story from siem reap leighton and crucially the food looks fabulous
Thanks a lot Stan. I simply adore Indian food and Dakshin’s certainly didn’t disappoint. You’re right, he’s a complex character and I appreciated how candid he was that afternoon.
A classic Leighton post. Great food (Indian no less) with great food pictures and interviews with the owner and cooks. You don’t see many restaurants like this with an open kitchen. I notice that by the end, they are like your friends. You are a superb interviewer. That charity event must have been something. No wonder he is proud of it.
Cheers Memo, how I wish we had a Dakshin’s in Georgia. We did find an Indian joint in Batumi and while the food was decent I felt it was horribly overpriced. No Indian restaurants here in Tskaltubo/Kutaisi, but soon we’ll be relocating to the capital. Our luck surely should be in there, in terms of availability at least.
I am with you. A good Indian restaurant is worth looking for. They are a bit tougher to find in some Canadian cities. Not every owner/chef takes as much pride in his staff and cuisine as Dakshins. Pannir sounds like a good man to have as a boss. Our Irish cousin kept insisting we had to try chips and curry sauce. We resisted, not wanting to ruin either by mixing them. But, he was right, chips dipped in curry sauce were definitely more-ish. Have a great Sunday Leighton. Allan
Ooooh chips in curry sauce are fantastic, and feel so dirty/taboo ha ha. I haven’t had those in a long time. They are a staple of many British fish and chip shops (chippies), so I guess I’ll have to wait until the next time I’m home.
Indian foods are awesome! Thank you 🙏
Totally agree, thanks for your comment!
Yes. You are welcome 🙏
Dakshin’s Indian Restaurant is looking a great place for Indian food! All are looking delicious! 😊well shared
Thanks for reading Priti, I appreciate your comment!
It’s my pleasure 😊 do visit my blog.😁😁
I have to admit that I have never tried Indian food, but you and Pannir have inspired me to find some as soon as possible. I don’t think we have any Indian restaurants here in our burgers, barbecue, beer, and Mexican food environment. Google search here I come. Kudos to Pannir to have weathered the Covid storm. I wish him the best.
Thanks Kellye, I would love to know how you get on if you do try some Indian food. I was wondering how many Indian restaurants one might find across Texas. Not that many, I’m guessing. Interested to hear the results of your Google search.
I will let you know when I find one and try it. I bet there are more restaurants than I realize.
My favourite food is Indian too! I’ve been craving it being away for over 3 months but now thanks to you I’m really craving it! We don’t have as many Indian restaurants in Canada as UK, but we have a lot
Hey Maggie, I guess you’ll make up for that when you eventually get home. Thanks for your comment.
My knowledge of Indian food is very limited (maybe because I like my food more mild … but I also recently learned that not all their food is hot). Yes, those chefs do look quite serious – maybe they thought you were a food critic 😉. And I must admit, your meals at Dakshin’s looks really good. Phew, it was with a sigh of relief that I have read they are still going strong – well done to Pannir and his team!
Btw, I know you would love to visit Durban – it’s home to the largest group of Indians in SA (and outside India) – apparently the Indian restaurants are well worth a visit!
Hey Corna, thanks for the tip re Durban. If I ever make it to SA I would surely want to check out the Indian food there. I’m not into very spicy curries either, both Sladja and I can handle a little kick, but not much more. Me, a food critic? Ha! Thanks for your contributions to this series Corna, there are plenty more cool cafes and restaurants on the way.
this is great blogging leghton, i once went to the phnom pen dakshins but not the siem reap one. actually didnt know they also have one in sr. may i share this in indians in cambodia groups? i think my friends will like to read.
Thanks so much Ravi, I never made it to Dakshin’s in Phnom Penh. Of course, please feel free to share this link to any of your groups where you feel people might be interested in reading. Cheers!
Oh, I love Indian food. I’ll be sure to save a night for this place. Pannir sounds a tough person to work for, but obviously knows what he’s doing. Good Indian places are rare in Spain, so this will be a real treat. Thanks for sharing!
Ah, lovely! Oh yes, I know from my time living in Spain how hard it is to track down an Indian restaurant outside the major cities. I did have a decent meal in Barcelona, as you would expect. I hope you have a great meal at Dakshin’s Nieves, thanks for your continued interest in this series 🙂
I just ate, but I’m hungry again! 😆 I love Indian food, although I can only go up to medium on the spice level…Dakshin’s looks fantastic, and I’m glad that it survived the pandemic! Bon appétit! 😋
Ah Rebecca, you’re in good company as medium spice is just about the maximum we could deal with. I have never understood these vindaloo maniacs in The UK. That is is so damn hot that the flavours just dissolve amid the boiling cauldron of unnecessary hotness. Each to their own I guess.
Ah there’s nothing like a good curry….although the only overseas place (other than India itself) that we’ve ever eaten Indian food is Dar-Es-Salaam.
Ah right, I think I have lost count of the cities, towns and even countries I’ve had an Indian in. Somehow, I always seem to sniff these places out. Sometimes by design, often by chance.
Love that this post ends with a happy ending of still being open!! I am starting to love Indian food too! It’s never something I crave, but I’m always so happy when I have it.
Thanks for stopping by, Lyssy, I’m sure NYC has some killer Indian restaurants.
You got me dreaming of Indian food! Might have to go to my fave local this weekend, its been a while! I am glad these guys survived the pandemic, good on them!
Thanks for keeping up with the series Anna, I’m hoping that, like you, another Indian feast is on the horizon soon.
Looking to cultures around the world for culinary inspiration is an exciting way to stimulate your taste buds and what better way to do it than with flavorful Indian dishes? I wouldn’t be able to imagine my life without a crisp papadum and korma.
Hey Aiva, thanks for visiting. A creamy Chicken Korma was my go-to curry when I was in my twenties, before I could handle any level of spice. I still enjoy a Korma from time to time, it tastes like youth and nostalgia 😉
Like you, I absolutely love Indian food, and Pannir’s commitment to excellence is evident in your description of his restaurant, and beyond. The dishes look amazing! Maybe someday we’ll get to visit. Great post Leighton, as usual.
Oh that’s great Tricia, so glad to find another Indian food lover. Thanks for reading the Dakshin’s story, what’s your favourite Indian dish?
I love Mattar Paneer, Dal Punjabi, Veggie Pakora, and most any green curry dish. How about you?
We are really fond of paneer dishes too, and well, everything else you mentioned. It’s hard to pick even a few favourites, but I’d maybe say Butter Chicken, Lamb Tikka Masala, maybe a Dal Makhani.
Those are good too. And luckily there’s a great Indian restaurant about 30 minutes from our home in Normandie.
That awkward moment when you start salivating all over your keyboard 🙂 That food looks amazing. I like that he set such a standard for his employees, that he was tough but he was also more than fair and treated them all as a family. That’s the mark of a great businessman. I’m so glad that they survived the pandemic and are still going strong.
Thanks for your enthusiasm Meg. I shall have to forward this article to Pannir, as I think he would enjoy reading the various comments. I still have him on WhatsApp somewhere I think. Have you tried much Indian food?
My experience with Indian food has been a little hit and miss. Some places I’ve tried have been amazing while others not so much. Strangely out in Utah there were tons of Indian restaurants but here in Tennessee there are only a handful around.
I’ve heard from several friends and acquaintances that Indian restaurants are very hit and miss across the U.S. I’ve only tried one myself, in NYC. It was solid if not spectacular.
I absolutely love Indian food as well and this post has sparked an intense craving! I really enjoyed reading about the owner and his story.
Hey Laura, cheers for the read, the comment and indeed for following Leighton Travels. I will definitely take a look at your blog in the coming days. Do you have a favourite or go-to Indian dish?
Hi Leighton- my pleasure and I look forward to following your adventures! Circling back to the Indian food- there are so many dishes that I love (especially as a vegetarian) but palak paneer and chana masala are a couple of my favourites.
A wonderful review and story, Leighton! We love trying various food during our travels, and those dishes are just mouth watering🙂
Hilarious that what they consider is mild, it’s actually too spicy for me😉 but still I like trying them haha
Hey Christie, thank you so much for reading and commenting. You’re right, you do have to be careful when Indian waiters and chefs tell you “no no, not too spicy”, especially if you have a low tolerance. Hope you are well and enjoying the delights of fall!
Indeed, we have been spoiled with amazing colours this fall🙂
The food looks delicious and how wonderful to find a Raffles Hotel in town!
Thanks Marion, Dakshin’s was definitely my favourite Indian restaurant in Cambodia. In fact, it might even make my world top 5 if I were ever to make such a list.
The Spice Pantry of Mr. Pannir, coming this Christmas! It’s quite a good title for short horror story perhaps. I hope he gets to watch a game in London. We have a great selection of indian restaurants in Tokyo. And they have great veggie options which I like.
Hey Jojo! I would read that horror story! But maybe not immediately after eating 😉 If Pannir was ever in London, I would insist on taking him to a QPR match at Loftus Road. I actually did go to an Indian restaurant during my visit to Tokyo and it was decent. Sadly I didn’t take a note of its name or take any photos, which is very unlike me. Thanks for reading!
Wow this place looks amazing! The food seems very impressive, and it is amazing that he treats his staff as his own family, and is so involved with the community.
Thanks for dropping by Allie. To have an Indian restaurant of this quality on our doorstep that stayed open during the pandemic was a real treat.
I’m a vegetarian, so Indian food is always one of my go-to choices when eating out. It’s neat that you visited Dakshin’s prior to the pandemic and that you were invited back to learn more about the history of the restaurant and about the owner. The food all looks amazing, especially those samosas.
Thanks for catching up. I’m a meat lover but in recent years nearly always go for at least one veggie option when having Indian food, such is the strength of their vegetarian dishes. Cheers, Linda.
Just love a good curry, problem is there’s not many around as all the same menu and sauce. Best we’ve had has been when travelling through India, so so different and yours sounds original.
Somehow I thought you’d be a big curry guy Gary. I also have fond memories of the curries in India, thanks for checking out this piece on Dakshin’s.
great reading Leighton, I love Indian food and enjoy this story of Pannir and his restaurant
Thank you Jim, appreciate the read and your comment!
Brilliant article you write a great profile and the photos really bring everything to life. Now I want Indian food!
Thanks for your kind words! Hope there’s a decent restaurant for you nearby 😉
When you are in India, always eat like local. Trust me you will enjoy the style to eating of Indians. 🥰🥰 Have a nice trip to India.
Hey Kartik, thanks for your message. I have spent several months traveling in India and always enjoyed my experiences there eating local foods.
hello, i was just wondering if there is a connection between your strange comment and this article? any relevance at all?
Thanks for reading!
Well expressed your feelings.
Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate you reading, liking my recent articles and taking the time to leave a comment🍻
The food looks amazing 🤤🤩
It really was, thanks for your comment, Ioana.
Thank you for sharing 😊
Thanks for your comment!