There’s something fishy going on in the coastal town of Kep that has visitors hooked. Fear not, because we don’t mean the criminal kind of fishy. We mean fishy in the sense that it is home to some of Cambodia’s finest and freshest seafood.
Home to the famous Crab Market, stacks and stacks of crab and seafood shacks and an incredible collection of restaurants specialising in all creatures of the ocean, Kep is the place to be if you have a craving for fish and crustaceans.
The Crab Market is well worth a visit, especially in the early morning when locals head to the bustling spot to secure the freshest and best deals of the day. Here, you can watch crab catchers wade into the water to check the wooden crab baskets that bob in the sea.
Their haul is then thrown into buckets to be checked and weighed before being flogged onto the market’s stallholders and sold to punters, or shipped off to restaurants and stores across Cambodia.
Despite Crab and Kampot Pepper – the world-famous pepper produced in neighbouring Kampot – being one of Cambodia’s revered dishes, the market isn’t all about crab, with stalls selling other catches of the day in the form of a variety of flapping fish, prawns and other seafood.
As well as selling fresh food, stalls tout an array of ready-to-eat snacks, especially barbecued squid on skewers and other grilled fish that are lip-smackingly good.
If you fancy sampling the delights in a slightly more refined environment, then a row of wooden shacks sit next to the market, ranging in quality and price. These eateries specialise in the signature stir-fried crab with Kampot pepper, as well as other delightful seafood-themed options, including red snapper, calamari, prawns and tuna.
Some of these spots are great for sundowners before dinner – they all come with spectacular sea views – or post-dinner drinks, with a handful staying open later. Just remember, Kep is quiet and securing a ride home in the form of a tuk tuk or moto can be tricky afterhours so book ahead.
Kimly Restaurant has built a countrywide reputation for its seafood offerings, with prices reflecting its name. French-owned La Baraka is another popular place, also serving wood-fired pizzas and a range of French dishes.
While munching on Crab and Kampot Pepper may seem tempting, eating crab in Cambodia today comes coupled with controversy. Reports of over-fishing are leading to decreasing stock and nearby coral reefs and seagrass beds being ruined.
However, with so many other tempting options available across the town, enjoying a feast of fresh seafood is an experience that is never far away.