Crab with Kampot Pepper

Crab with Kampot Pepper

Stir-fried crab with Kampot pepper, ginger and garlic is one
of Southeast Asia’s tastiest dishes, best enjoyed while listening
to the sea, close to the source of its super-fresh ingredients.

Pepper has been cultivated in Cambodia for over a thousand years. From French colonial times Kampot’s pepper was regarded as the world’s finest by Parisian chefs. The Vietnam War and the Khmer Rouge era halted production, but Kampot pepper is reassuming its global renown. Most is exported in dried form, but the just-picked unripe berry has a zingy, citrusy flavour that’s perfect with stir-fried crab.

You’ll need
2 tbs peanut oil
4–6 whole crabs (ideally mud
or blue swimmer crabs)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and
coarsely chopped
3 tsp finely chopped fresh
4 Kampot green peppercorn
vines (available in Asian
grocery stores or online), or
2 tbs green peppercorns in
brine, drained and carefully
1½ tsp fish sauce
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tsp palm sugar
6 spring onions (scallions),
trimmed on the ends and
sliced diagonally into chunks
Steamed rice to serve

Cooking Method
1 Heat the oil over high heat in a hot wok until it’s almost smoking. Add the whole crabs and stir-fry for around 5 minutes until almost cooked.
2 Add the garlic, ginger and peppercorns, and stir-fry for a minute until soft and fragrant.
3 Add the fish sauce, soy sauce and palm sugar and stir-fry for 2–3 minutes until the sauce thickens.
4 Remove from the heat and stir in the sliced spring onions until they wilt.
5 Serve over steamed rice.

Tasting notes
When Cambodia was a French colony, Kep was a beach escape for the French residents of Phnom Penh. With a compact waterfront corniche, it still retains a Gallic ambience but the town’s famous crab market could only be in Southeast Asia. Fresh crabs are landed by fishermen in the morning and then it’s just a short distance to hot woks. Eating crab initially looks challenging, but using a tiny fork makes it easy to extract the tender meat inside the shell and legs. The overriding flavour is the fragrant zing of green peppercorns, with a subtle saltiness and sweet notes coming from fish sauce and palm sugar. Ocean breezes and chilled Angkor beer complete one of Cambodia’s best dining experiences.

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