Hanging out in Kep’s crab market is one of our favourite things to do in Cambodia, but eating crab is becoming increasingly controversial. Over-fishing of the crabs is decimating stocks and contributing to destruction of nearby coral reefs and seagrass beds. Many reputable hotel restaurants in Kep will no longer serve Kep crab. Perhaps reconsider the crab and go for a more sustainable fish or other seafood instead.
The string of wooden shack restaurants that make up the crab market all serve pretty extensive menus of crab, fish, seafood and other Khmer and Western dishes, so you’re not obliged to tuck into crab if you don’t want to. Instead of crab, a chef pal suggests that in general in Southeast Asia (or elsewhere!) goldband snapper, red snapper, calamari and tuna are pretty safe bets. Barramundi and gurami, both river fish, are also sustainable options where available.
Plenty of great spots to eat and drink are here, but a couple of sundowners at the friendly Toucan tapas bar followed by a meal at the neighbouring and excellent French-owned La Baraka restaurant is one of our favourite ways to spend an evening anywhere in Cambodia. The local seafood dishes are sumptuous, the service attentive, and should someone in your party not eat seafood or Khmer cuisine, they have excellent wood-fired pizzas on offer as well as a selection of classic French dishes. (In fact, their duck leg with gratin potatoes almost makes us forget about skipping crab.)
There are lots of prawn, squid and fish alternatives if you don’t want the crab and there are plenty of more local-style eateries along the waterfront too. Kim Ly’s is the best known, though its success has pushed up prices.
Most crab market restaurants are open from late morning until late evening or whenever they run out of customers. Toucan, on a busy night, can stay open pretty late though. Note there are plenty of tuk tuks around early on to whisk you home, but you might want to book one if you end up staying late. Enjoy!
By Nicky Sullivan
Last updated on 12th March, 2016.