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Channy Laux, Angkor Cambodian Food, Wins 2021 Leadership Award for Citizenship

Monday, December 7, 2020 2:15 PM

By Julie Besonen - 12/7/20

Channy Laux wanted the world, not just her immediate family, to remember her courageous and resourceful mother. Em, as she was called, was orphaned at 14 in Cambodia and went to work cleaning houses, cooking, and taking care of other people’s children. One of those children taught her to read and write since she had never gone to school.

Em married a successful businessman and had children of her own, but the Khmer Rouge regime destroyed their lives in the mid-1970s. As a teenager, Channy endured starvation and brutality and was separated from her family. Her father and a brother were killed in the genocide.

In 1979, Em and her four surviving children immigrated to Lincoln, Nebraska. They learned English, got educations, and made friends. Channy relished helping her mother cook Cambodian dishes, talking about the past and the future and things that made them happy.

“My relationship with my mother saved me, not only physically, but gave me a reason to continue living because I wanted her to see me again,” Laux, 57, says, talking of their painful separation in Cambodia.

Finding the right Cambodian ingredients in Lincoln was impossible back then, so Em would substitute carrots for green papaya, oregano for hot basil, and dried Thai galangal for fresh. They planted mint in their garden, and on a trip to California were thrilled to find lemongrass.  …read full story