Name: Boiled Crab
Time of Day: Lunch and dinner, I guess
Location: Kep, in southern Cambodia
Cost: $5 for 9 crabs (1kg)
The Rest: We'd been told about the crabs here but when we turned up all the stalls only had BBQ squid and fish for sale. Luckily some of our compatriots spoke a bit of Khmer and asking around led to a lady wading out into the sea, dragging a bamboo cage back with her and proceeding to grab a load of blue swimmer crabs from it. Some bartering ensued (thanks to the Khmer speakers again) and before you knew it a well used saucepan was placed on to burning logs and the crabs were getting a bit restless on the quickly warming floor.There was no complex preparation - just crabs, saucepan and a bucketful of sea water - and a few minutes later we were presented with the crabs who had given up on the blue look and were now sporting a nice rosey complexion. This was street food at its most basic, so much so that the lady didn't even have any tables. Luckily for us a friendly food stall next door let us sit on theirs and provided us with some nuoc cham (fish sauce, lime, chili, sugar) to dip, a favour that worked out well for them as we only managed 5 crabs between us so they were given 4 when we left.
The crab itself was a delight - sweet and tender - and the sauce worked well. Crab has an affinity with chili and here was no different, the sauce cut through the richness of the meat too and the salty fish sauce seasoned and added umami. With seafood fresh is best and you don't get much fresher than this. They were a pain to crack open with nothing but our teeth and hands but the effort was worth the reward and with the sea a few metres away the hands didn't stay dirty too long.