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Kep Crab Market and the best seafood of Cambodia

Kep Crab Market

The quiet seaside town of Kep could not be any more different than Sihanoukville if it tried. You will not find tall unfinished buildings with overpaying Chinese guests here. Instead you have an old school Blackpool like beach, quiet resorts and the best seafood in the country at the legendary Kep Crab Market.

And while there are also lots of other great things to do in Kep and indeed in neighboring Kampot, the Crab Market is of such obscene quality and value makes the 3 hour, or so journey worth it in itself.

What the Kep Crab Market?

I remember on one of the first visits I made to Kampot having a drunk Englishman (its always the English) chattering on for an hour to me how Bokor Hill was no longer worth visiting and instead I should go to Kep Crab Market. I’ll make two points here, there is no reason why this should be a binary choice and secondly? I had not actually asked the question. Long story short I went to both – once again I digress….

So, Kep Crab Market is a fully functioning seafood market for the fishermen of Kep and beyond and is the benchmark for the best seafood in Kep. Located on the waterfront it is also home to around 30 restaurants and small shops that offer quaint, slowly served seafood off of the windy Kep coast.

It is though in the middle of all this that locals, tourists and traders alike are drawn and that is for Kep Market/Kep Seafood market, or as it is most popularly known Kep Crab Market (ផ្សារក្តាម).

What can you eat at Kep Crab Market?

What can you eat at Kep Crab Market? Of course the smart ass answer would be grab, but in actuality there is so much more to this market than crab, with other foods of note being shrimp and squid. And while both of these are done vernally very good in Cambodia, in Kep they are frankly unbeatably fresh and tasty.

For example a KG of shrimp will set you back about $7-9 depending on the season. Once peeled these shrimp simply melt in you mouth and are so good that even being stuffed is not enough to stop you eating them.

The squid here is much the same and while again it is good in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville when you buy it is Kep it so fresh to make it again almost melt when you eat it with there being zero rubbery undertones.

And as it is Kep Crab Market we should probably talk about the crab here. Unsurprisingly crabs take up a fair bot of space at the market and you can see them in cages alive and well before you pick the one you want to eat, which again can be cooked on sight for you.

I have yet to indulge ins the big crabs at the market (although I have had them in Kep), but I have eaten the smaller deep-fried crabs. To call this dish weird would be a gross understatement and these are deep fried and eaten whole. Not my favorite food, but well worth the experience and indicative of some of the more weird foods available at Kep seafood market.

And these weird foods are frequent and eclectic, with cured, or dried, from squid to crabs, shrimp and pretty much anything else you can imagine. They also serve the famous Khmer fishcake that is wrapped in a banana leaf known as Num Slek Jaak and similar in some ways to Songvak. Of course this is available throughout he country, but is particularly good at the market in Kep.

In and around Kep Crab Market

During the day this area is dominated by the crab market, but at night it is the 30, or so restaurants that take center stage.These small restaurants are slow family ran affairs that often have many items missing from the menu and in our expense at least at times do not even know the drinks they have on their menu. But, this is what Kep is all about, quiet and tranquility, with this pretty much being the nightlife of the city.

On my last sojourn here I ended up at Seagull La Mouette, which I shall probably give its own article, but in shorts shall give kudos to their raw shrimp, a dish that I have also enjoyed when I visited Hua Hin in Thailand. This is a dish it is really easy to get wrong, and indeed make people sick, but it was clean and went well wish the Kep hot sauce.

And it is all these factors which for me at least make Kep Crab Market not only well worth a visit, but also singularly justify coming down and staying in Kep.