Kampot is a provinical town set against the tek chou river, a gentile place where little happens; a haven of cafes and day trips. It’s also famous for the production of peppercorns.
Before the Khmer Rouge took control of the country in 1975, Kampot pepper was famous, considered one of the premier peppercorns the world over and a popular choice with the French, who have a lot of colonial history in the region. Pol pot and his cohorts took over the country, killed off the elite and the educated and sent the remaining population to work farming rice. During this period the pepper farms were destroyed.
Fast forward to the modern day, the Khmer Rouge have been ejected and although Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the South East Asia region, it does have a rapidly developing tourism scene and the famous pepper is growing again.
The town of Kep, thirty or so kilometers from Kampot is home to ten or more seafront restaurants known as ‘the crab market’ the shacks are perched on the waters edge and all sell similar products – prawns, squid, grilled fish and crab in pepper sauce.
The crab is cooked in a Chinese style sauce, using oyster and soy sauce, with a hit of sugar to create a sweet and sour flavour. The green pepper corns are left on the vine and stir fried with the sweet, succulent crab. The pepper flavour is spicy, but with a sweet fruitiness – a perfect match with the sweet crustaceans.
The glut of near identical restaurants keep pricing competitive and the seafood is super fresh – after you order you’re likely to see someone wade out to the crab traps to round up your dinner – and it’s a truly memorable South East Asian culinary experience.