Eating Kep: Possibly The Best Crab Ever
What happens when you take a farm producing Kampot pepper, famously used back in fancy French restaurants back in the day.
Pick the pepper and use it in lush, green strands before it’s dried into the peppercorns we know.
Then you go to the next town over which is known for fresh ocean crabs?
You get what may be the best crab I have ever eaten, green peppercorn crab in Kep, Cambodia. It is why I have come to Kampot and Kep, two towns separated by 25 kilometers but combining to form a delicious dish. Crab is already my favorite seafood and this similar to Chinese preparation with a gravy like sauce made of scallions is greatly improved by delicious Kampot green peppercorns.
Kampot restaurants leave something to be desired in general. Although I thought it was tasty at the time, I didn’t realize this one dinky crab was a rip off in what had gone from a local to a tourist only restaurant.
Well, at least I can enjoy a beautiful sunset view of the river from this place. Seriously though, as proof inclusion in Lonely Planet kills restaurants, Ta Ouv restaurant is just no good. Go to Kep instead.
I don’t think in my months and months of traveling have I been to a Lonely Planet restaurant that was even good. The only ones untainted were restaurants that were already famous and well known before being put in the book.
I bicycled out to Kep and decided I wanted to find their blue crab statue before I ate. I failed to find it and found this naked mermaid instead. Guys, I don’t think that scarf is helping her modesty any.
It’s a (crab) trap! Rather, a lot of crab traps and the crab market behind it. There’s a line of crab restaurants next to the market. Locals buy bags of crabs steamed at the market and eat it in the park or near the ocean.
Avoiding the twice as expensive Lonely Planet choice, I went instead for expat favorite Sunset Restaurant at the end of crab row. Now that’s a plate of crab! And that’s a Coca-Cola masquerading as wine.
I got to watch the fine ladies of the crab market next door at work as I ate. Good to know my food is fresh.
A messy hour later, only the crab ladies remained. The crab cracker lay shamefully unused under a plate and a small bit of Kampot pepper lime sauce sat in the saucer.
I was so satisfied and thought the day could not go any better. Until I turned the other way from the crab market and saw that the next restaurant had their own traps and would go out to them when customers ordered crabs. Well, I know what I’m doing the next day.
I returned and got my own crab lady! Although once they brought them in I saw them poking at a black trash bag full of less wiggly critters. I’m not sure which I got.
They were grilling squid and fish when I got in so I tried some of that too. Good but the crab is definitely better. The lime, salt and pepper sauce is particularly tasty with Kampot pepper.
This plate was as magnificent as Sunset Restaurant’s. There was more sauce, a gravy like the kind you’d find on Chinese chow fun noodles. The kind that is asking to be mixed with the rice on the next plate. On the downside, I seemed to have a lot of missing and loose limbs on this plate. Inferior crab butcher?
Good thing I got food poisoning and went to Siem Reap first. Otherwise I would’ve realized that Kampot pepper is the real living treasure of Cambodia and might’ve stayed weeks trying every restaurant near the crab market. I think I prefer the taste of Sunset Restaurant’s crab more than its neighbor without an English name. Luckily for me, they gave me slightly more crab too. For $5 a plate for this small/medium plate, I wonder what a large looks like! This is definitely the best thing I’ve eaten in Cambodia and possibly this trip.