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Scotland's larder: Sunny Mollah of Baba's Sauce Dundee

We talk to Sunny Mollah of Baba's Sauce in Dundee about his late father's top secret sweet chilli sauce recipe and why working with his mum has been so important to him.

Published: November 10, 2021

We are a nation of sauce lovers, so whether it is ketchup, brown, or any shade in between it seems we can't get enough of condiments to enhance or complement our favourite dishes.

In Edinburgh it is salt and sauce but in Dundee, the new sauce of choice is apparently Baba's Sauce.

Sunny Mollah, who manufactures it with help from his mum tells us that it goes with anything; burgers, chips, fish or salad, "I even had someone tell me they had it on pineapple and it still tasted nice."

Baba's sauce Dundee
Baba's sauce tastes good on everything. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Sunny describes the taste; "it is a sweet chilli sauce which has a layered kick on it - so you will get a sweet taste first then the chilli kicks in after that. It is more than 'just' another sauce, it is all handmade by myself and my mum. You won't taste anything like it, there is nothing like it out there on the market."

Daddy's sauce

Sunny's late father created this sauce in the late 70’s in Dundee, and he went on to use this signature sauce in all his restaurants.

His father was originally from Khulna, in Bangladesh, his parents had an arranged marriage but Sunny tells us that; "when my father went to visit my mother he knew straight away that he wanted to marry her."

Baba's sauce Dundee
Sunny's dad with his children

They wanted a better life so they came to Dundee in the 1970's, initially his father to studied the jute industry then worked as a garment finisher in Levi's factory.

When the couple first came to Scotland they were the only Bengali's in Dundee so they suffered some racial abuse; "it was quite hard for them," Sunny said.

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His father then opened a series of restaurants, Sunny explains more about him, "he was a really cheery person who everybody respected him so they appointed him the head of the Bangladesh community in Dundee."

Bonnie Dundee

Sunny was born in Kirkcaldy in Fife but the family moved back to Dundee when he was 17, and it has been his hometown ever since.

Dundee. Photo: John Devlin

When they were growing up Sunny and his brothers all helped out in the takeaways; "I used to help take orders, I could make nan breads in a tandoori oven when I was 13 years old. I had a different social life from my friends I was always working in the takeaways with mum and dad."

All three brothers worked hard at school; one is a doctor, one is a bio chemist in the oil industry.

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Sunny began studying Community Education and Social Work at Dundee University but dropped out because he didn't enjoy it, he admits, "I just wanted to earn money."

Working it out

He ended up with four jobs instead; working in a bank, cleaning and selling cars, as well as working at the legendary Dundee night spot, Fat Sam's, and then he opened a garage with a mechanic friend.

Sunny recognises his father's ambition and drive in himself, "I think that is where I picked up a lot of my traits, he was always out working, but he provided enough for us as a family."

Baba's sauce Dundee
A family business, Baba's sauce means dad's sauce

The family had moved to Kinghorn in Fife, but returned to Dundee in 2000's, and his father opened up another takeaway but it didn't thrive.

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He was getting older and he developed diabetes and then his kidneys failed, Sunny said, " he just deteriorated so much he just passed away. It was hard for my mum and everybody."

His father had asked his son if he wanted to go into business, but Sunny said, "at that point I was really stubborn and I said no, I wanted to do things myself. Then when my dad died, I couldn't believe I hadn't gone into business with him."

Mum's the word

Sunny promised himself that whatever happened he would look after his mum and make sure she was provided for.

She was struggling with the loss of her husband and was depressed, he knew he had to do something with his mum; "because that was what my dad wanted me to do."

He had never considered opening a food business before but ended up running the garage and a takeaway shop which were next to each other.

He feels that opening up the takeaway with his mother helped her come out of her depression , he said, "she was working everyday with me, we had a laugh and her mind was occupied, before she was in the house all day every day just sitting crying."

Baba's sauce Dundee
Sunny Mollah with his mum Suraya. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Jings!

He decided to give up the car garage, he said, "I realised the takeaway was more important to me than anything. I had to focus on mum and I put my all into it."

When Sunny and his mum opened the they included the family sauce on the menu, and decided to name it Baba's sauce (meaning dad); "we both thought it was a perfect name"

He laughs because it was a tiny takeaway, he said, "people used to come in to be entertainment by me and mum shouting at each other. You can tell we love it each other, I really enjoyed it and sometimes I regret expanding."

The family enterprise began with Sunny and his mum but soon his sister in law and my uncle were roped in.

Baba's sauce Dundee
Sunny with his mum and sister in law Tina who are all involved in Baba's sauce production. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

The small takeaway expanded into a large city centre restaurant but he said, "when Covid hit, it was really struggling. so we have ended up going back to a smaller place."

As the pandemic has affected the restaurant trade, now the whole the family are concentrating on Baba's sauce.

Then customers had started to ask where they could buy a bottle, so they started to look at outsourcing the manufacturing.

All the factories they approached said it was too difficult to make or it was too expensive to produce, so they decided to make it themselves.

Top Secret

It is made to the family's secret recipe, Sunny said, "we are the only people who know how to make it, I have it written down and it is kept safe, but I know it off by heart and so does my mum."

Sunny explains it is a complex process, "we have actually got over 12 spices in there as well as dried and powdered chilli, we have to layer the flavour, so we mince garlic, ginger and sugar cane and fresh mint and then we have to boil it to a certain temperature."

Baba's sauce Dundee
They are currently in the process of gaining SALSA accreditation. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

He explains they still use some of his fathers old catering equipment, "we have got a mixer that my dad bought in 1995, if anything goes wrong with it I'll get if fixed as it is a piece of our family's history."

It is a proper family concern now with his wife Simone, and sister in law, Tina involved.

Although they manufacture from a small unit he said, "if we do get big orders we could produce 10 000 bottles a week, so we are ready for the big suppliers if they want to come on board."

They are currently in the process of gaining SALSA accreditation, to demonstrate that their production and procedures are all safe.

Baba's sauce Dundee
Bottling the sauce. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Fat Sam's

Sunny met his wife, Simone 17 years ago when they worked together at Fat Sam's nightclub, he said, "from that night on we have never left each others side, and have never broken up."

He explains initially his family didn't approve of the relationship; "my mum and dad are muslim and my wife is Scottish, so it took them a lot of time to agree to it and be ok with it."

Now he said, "my wife and my mum are like best mates," the couple also have two future entrepreneurs in daughters, Anayia (9) and Sahara (7)

Sunny is delighted to be back working with his mum every morning; "it is such a nice thing, we are having a laugh."

His mother, Suraya is well known in Dundee for being a great chef, Sunny said, "she is always cooking and everybody loves her. As soon as you walk past the house she will take you inside and feed you." he said.

Baba's sauce Dundee
Baba's sauce Dundee. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Independent

Currently Baba's sauce is sold in independent shops locally, Sunny said, "because of brand awareness has been so high in Dundee."

In Hayat’s Supersave Premier store their best selling sauce was tomato ketchup, they'd sell 25 bottles a week, but Baba's sauce is now selling 125 bottles a week there, Sunny said so, "it is completely kicked off."

Baba's sauce is also stocked in all the main butchers shops: Scott Brothers Butchers, Grossetts Of Dundee and Grants Butchers, he said, "they are all absolutely loving it because they are all getting repeat customers, so it is all going really well at the moment better than I ever expected."

Baba's sauce Dundee
Baba's sauce goes with anything. Photo: Lisa Ferguson

Getting the word out

However they have ambitions to get their sauce in more shops, but to do that they need to raise brand awareness in other places.

He is in the process of creating a website to promote the sauce and word is spreading fast, they have just sent a thousand bottles to Rochdale.

The ultimate aim is that; "one of these bigger supermarkets will notice us and take it on. It is our dream to do this full time," he said.

Sunny said, "all I need people to do is to try the sauce, after I send them some they always end up contacting me, it is that good! I know Baba's sauce will reach a mainstream supermarket, it’s just a matter of how and when."

Baba's sauce Dundee
Baba's sauce, made in Dundee

Baba's Sauce

Unit 1 Baba's Sauce
Castle Huntly Road
Longforgan
Dundee,
DD2 5HJ


sales@babasauce.co.uk

Catriona is based in the Scottish Borders and works as part of the audiovisual team at the Scotsman but she reviews restaurants for Scotland on Sunday and writes for Scotsman Food and Drink in her spare time.

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