The Meal Planner

I know I'm always singing the praises of our wonderful foodie friends Dan and Lisa, especially the authentic Thai food they cook up for us that they learned while living in Thailand and today is no exception. We've had incredible Ba Mee Giao Moo Dang, Grapao (pronounced "kapow") and now this larp (pronouced "laap"). It is essentially a minced meat salad with hits of sour lime, fresh mint, spicy chili, salty fish sauce and nutty roasted rice. This dish is so quick and inexpensive to prepare, this is the go-to frequent dinner in Dan and Lisa's family. They call it their "KD". Dan and Lisa have five kids with one more on the way, and when we all sat down to eat, the kids were ravenous. Each child dished up rice, flavored pork and rolled the mixture into cabbage and lettuce leaves and tore into the rolls like they were chocolate covered twinkies. My husband and I went back for 5th and 6th helpings (I kid you not).

We loved this dish so much I made it at home a few days later when both my Mother-in-Law and my Dad were visiting. Neither of them were really familiar with authentic Thai flavors so I wasn't sure how well the meal would fly with them. When they were each reaching for 3rd and 4th helpings and licking the bowls clean I was completely convinced that this dish a winner.

Recipe by Dan Kremer

Serves 4

On the left is the larp, and the small bowl with chili's and garlic is the nam pic.

Nam Pic (Sauce):
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup fish sauce
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 Thai chili’s, deseeded and chopped
1-2 tsp brown sugar

1 lb ground pork (or ground beef or ground chicken)
3-4 tbsp Jasmine rice grains
3 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp fish sauce
3-4 tbsp fresh mint, chopped (or 2 tsp dried mint)
3-4 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Cooked Jasmine rice
Lettuce leafs and/or napa cabbage leaves

To make the nam pic:
Add all the nam pic ingredients in a jar, stir well and let sit. This can be made well ahead of time and once made will store in your cupboard for a month (the longer it sits the more potent it becomes). If you find this is a dish that you really like and make often (like we do), I recommend making up a double or triple batch to save time the next time you make the dish.

To make the toasted rice:
In a dry wok or frying pan, add the rice grains over med-low heat. Let them toast until the grains have a nice golden color (will probably take about 10-15 minutes). Stir around to prevent from burning. A cool trick is to use an air popper popcorn maker if you have one. Add the rice grains, turn on and let toast until golden (probably about 5 minutes). I find this route shorter and you have to babysit the rice less. The rice doesn't burn quite so easily. Once toasted, remove from the heat and let cool. Place the toasted rice in a food processor, spice grinder, coffee grinder or mortar and pestle until they turn to a bit of a powder. My food processor only chops them to this consistency but we like them a bit chunkier and crunchy.

In a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat, brown the ground meat until cooked through and crumbly. Once browned add the lime juice, fish sauce and about ½ of the toasted rice grains. Let sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Adding some of the toasted rice now, they will soak up the juices in the meat. When almost ready to serve, stir in the chopped mint and cilantro and top with the rest of the toasted rice. This adds a nice nutty crunch to the top.

Serve ground meat mixture with jasmine rice, nam pic and lettuce and/or cabbage leaves.

I like to put a scoop of rice of on my plate, with a big scoop of the meat mixture on top. I then spoon some of the nam pic over my meat, but this part is totally optional. The meat is already seasoned, but the nam pic just really blows the flavor out of the water and adds a good bit of spicy kick from the chili peppers. When adding nam pic to your food, just take the juice mixture and avoid the bits of garlic and chili. They are seriously potent! I then mix that together and scoop that into either a lettuce leaf or cabbage leaf and roll up like a burrito. Some people eat only the meat mixture in the lettuce/cabbage leaves and eat the rice separately, or eat the rice/meat mixture and skip the's all up to you. I like the napa cabbage a bit better as a wrap because it holds together better, is crunchier and has more flavor. But any way you serve this dish up, it's a winner.

Click here for printable version of Thai Larp


I do realize that if you look at the ingredients and all the steps it does look kind of intimidating if you've never tried it. For us, the nam pic sauce is ESSENTIAL to the meal, but you could just leave that out if it scares you a bit. And like I said, you can mix up a batch before hand and eliminate that step when it comes time to make supper. I also like to toast more rice than I need and store it in a plastic container for the next time I make this dish. That way, when those two steps are out of the way, supper literally takes 15 minutes to put rice in the rice cooker and cook up the meat. The flavors of the sour lime and salty fish sauce dance on your tongue...and the nam pic adds a little "SHAZAAAAAM!" (that was so dorky of me to say, but accurately describes the taste sensation on your tongue).

Word of warning though: DON'T SMELL THE NAM PIC. Just don't do it. I'm warning you. It's one of those things that will scare you, but trust me....IT TASTES GOOD.

For those of you that haven't tried this dish before, have I scared you just a little bit? Or have I piqued your interest?

For more inexpensive meal ideas, visit $5 Dinner Challenge.

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19 Responses
  1. Tamar Says:, at no point do you cook (or add water) to the rice grains, right? does dry sauteing them make them soft enough to eat? i really want to make this but don't want to go wrong here:-)

  2. Marisa Says:

    This looks delicious! The rice looks very interesting - itching to try it out.

  3. My husband and I love authentic Thai food. I'd like to try this, but I have two quick questions. First, if I can't find a Thai chili, what would be a good substitution? Secondly, where do I find jasmine rice grains? I've never heard of that before. Any guidance you could offer would be great! It sounds delicious!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    This looks so good! I will be making this over the weekend. This looks like something you could just keep a container of in the fridge and heat up for quick lunches too.

  5. Tamar - you're right. At no point do you add water to soften the toasted rice (you do however cook a pot of rice to serve separately). There are only a couple tablespoons of the toasted rice in the dish. Some of the grains soften up a bit when you throw them in with the meat and lime juice/fish sauce, but not a whole lot. They are meant to be toasty and crunchy. Usually they are ground up much finer than mine, basically to a powder, but that's as far as my food processor will take it and we like it like that. So if you are worried, just grind them up finer. They are meant to act as flavoring and texture contrast, but mostly to soak up the wetness of the dressing.

    The Woman - The rice is quite interesting. Adds a nice toasty nutty crunch to the dish. And it's especially weird if you use the popcorn maker to toast them...smells like popcorn but not quite. I just kept waiting for one of the grains to turn INTO popcorn.

    Michelle - the tiny little Thai chili packs a good bit of heat, so just substitute with some dried pepper flakes. Just add as much as you'd like. With the Thai chili its REALLY spicy (makes your tongue tingle) but because you add only a tsp or so of the sauce to your meat and rice it mellows out a bit. Use your own judgment.

    Anonymous - Yep this is definitely something that stores well in the fridge. Would make very easy lunches!

  6. Ooops, sorry Michelle, I forgot to mention the Jasmine rice. It's a wonderful fragrant rice from Thailand, but you could also use a sticky rice instead. The brand I buy is "Rooster Sweet Rice" and in big letters on the side it says "Made in Thailand". It turns out really sticky which is nice for holding together in the lettuce or cabbage leaves.

  7. This looks good! Thai food is a favorite in my house.

    I've never made this, but I've seen recipes for it. Some call it larb, some call it laarb, and some, like you, call it larp. I guess it's a tomato/tomatoe thing?

    Anyways no matter how you refer to it, it looks delish!

  8. Alta Says:

    This sounds wonderful! I've made a similar version, without the crispy rice. I would love to try your version...I have most of the ingredients on hand already! My husband and I would end up eating way too much of this!

  9. wasabi prime Says:

    Gorgeous -- I love using lettuce cups; so refreshing.What a savory delight you made!

  10. Table Talk Says:

    This is right up my alley--I have made similar versions (some with Thai basil and chiles), but never with the toasted rice...craving this dish now!

  11. KitchenWitch - Yeah I know what you mean about the many spellings of Larp. I've found that with a lot of Thai food. Thai peeps don't pronounce r's so, it's said "laap" which is probably why it's spelled Laab sometimes.

    Alta - Yes, my husband and I eat WAAAY too much of this as well!

    Wasabi Prime - Lettuce cups are great. I've never really used them before, but I think I'm going to work them in a little more often.

    Table Talk - There is a similar Thai dish with Thai basil and chilis called Kapow, and I LOVE it!

  12. EatBlogSleep Says:

    This looks lovely - I like the way you've presented in a lettuce cup, similar to Chinese sang choy bow. To make the laab really authentic you should try adding some finely julienned kaffir lime leaves and serve it with raw vegetables and sticky rice. You can check out my recipe for laab here

  13. Looks delish! That is one of my favorite starters at our favorite Thai resturant. Chicken is the best in my opinion. I just might try making it in my own kitchen! Thanks!!

  14. Erika Britt Says:

    Am I ever glad you posted this! After multiple trips to Thailand growing up and last year with Arden... I would order this in every single restaurant we went into in Thailand. It's my favorite. Simple. Amazing. Thai memories. I have not found a recipe even close! Thanks Kindra!

  15. Does that mean you tried this recipe out Erika? You'll have to let me know how it compares. I'm jealous that you got to try Thai food IN Thailand :)

  16. Richelle Says:

    We love this!! I had this on my meal list for a couple weeks straight. Sometimes I crave it. I made this for my mom the other night, and she loved it. This recipe is a keeper!

  17. Richelle - the ingredient list makes you think that its going to be so weird, yet anyone I've made it for (my Dad and Steve's Mom) LOVE it too! I haven't made it in awhile but you've got my craving it again!

  18. Tara Says:

    I'm not going to lie, I've totally been dreaming about this incredible dish since we had it on your place on Sunday! I just made the Nam Pic sauce... So freaking excited!

  19. Anonymous Says:

    Thais laughed at me when I ate this dish 'lat cow' (over rice) as they eat it with cabbage and long beans. However I agree it is delicious over rice.