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How Dundee’s Sunny Mollah turned his dad’s secret chilli sauce recipe into a city staple

When Sunny Mollah's dad died in 2008, he left behind a recipe that would provide for his family.

Sunny Mollah, owner of Baba's Sauce at their factory in Longforgan. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson
Sunny Mollah, owner of Baba's Sauce at their factory in Longforgan. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

When Sunny Mollah’s dad died in 2008, he left behind something that would keep providing for his family.

“We found all of dad’s recipes in his diary; the chilli sauce was one of them,” said Sunny.

“I said to mum that we should just use his recipe. We never really realised how popular it would get.

“We used to call my dad Baba when we were younger by Bengali tradition, so we named it Baba’s Sauce.”

Nurul Mollah’s secret recipe

Nurul Mollah was a respected name and face in the community.

Sunny said: “Dad was very well known, he was the president of the Bangladesh Association in Dundee.

“He was firm but also very fun and approachable. People knew Mr Mollah was the guy who could get things sorted, but also not to get on the wrong side of him.”

His takeaway restaurants were popular, so much so that Sunny himself was helping out in the kitchen from a young age.

“I worked with my dad right from when I was 12 years old,” he said.

Owner Sunny Mollah stirs the sauce boiling pot. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

“I used to make naan breads, and I actually remember making the sauce with my dad. I used to help him at busy times then he’d let me go on home and play on the computer, treated to my favourite roti kebab.”

Despite growing up in his dad’s restaurants, it was never Sunny’s intention to open one himself. That was until he saw it as the only way to keep his mum, Suraya, from slipping into a depression after Nurul died.

“I knew I had to keep my mum busy,” said Sunny.

“Looking at these recipes and talking about what we were going to do, it was keeping her going.

“We ran the takeaway just me and her, so that bonding time we got was critical for us both when we were a bit lost. It was more than just about my dad, it was about saving us.”

Baba’s sauce kept Dundee crowd coming back

Reworking his Nurul’s recipes was Sunny and Suraya’s way of keeping his memory alive. People travelled from far and wide to taste their food, but what kept bringing them back above all else was Baba’s Sauce.

Noticing the interest, Sunny used his “business savvy” to reach out to local shops, all of whom agreed to stock the sauce in a heartbeat.

“We’ve almost just winged it, we had no proper plan,” said Sunny.

“Before we knew it, it was the staple sauce in Dundee, I reckon if you asked people about it, two out of three would know us.

“From there we started going to markets, selling it in tubs, then people started buying it in bigger quantities.

“In 2021, we finally got a small unit. I remember getting the keys and opening the door to it for the first time. I started with one stainless steel table and had no idea where to go from there, but one table turned into six and we started getting more equipment.

Sunny’s sister in law Tina Mollah fills up bottles of baba sauce.  Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

“When we approached our first shop in Dundee, they gave us a whole shelf at the front and sold 1,600 bottles in a week.

“At that point we were still hand bottling it, so me, my sister-in-law and my mum were doing nightshifts in the unit to make sure we didn’t run out.”

What ingredients are in Baba’s Sauce ?

The team invested in bottling equipment to make the operation semi-automatic and branched out beyond Dundee.

No matter how many orders flooded in, love remained at the heart of Baba’s Sauce, with Suraya mixing the 12 secret spices needed to make it by hand every morning.

“The ingredients in it are so random,” said Sunny.

“People say ‘what if someone replicates that?’, but even when I read the ingredients I was confused by how it would all go together, so it would be near impossible. I have no idea how dad came across it, but I am glad he did.”

Baba’s Sauce is now sold across Scotland and is even starting to make an appearance across the border. On April 11, it will debut on one of its biggest stages yet: the shelves of Aldi.

“We know how invested the Aldi team are in the product so we knew we wanted to have them on board,” said Sunny.

“They have asked questions, become invested in our story and wanted to meet everyone.

“It means so much to us, we’re not taking any of it for granted. They’re giving us that chance.”

‘Dad gave us everything we needed’

The business is a family affair, with Sunny’s wife overseeing online orders, his sister-in-law heading up staff in the factory and his brother helping with paperwork. Even his daughters, aged nine and 11, like getting involved at markets and on social media.

Now a dad himself, Sunny feels closer than ever to his own father.

“I remember him always giving us time, even when he was tired and busy,” he said.

Sunny Mollah and his wife and family with sister in law and her kids, l to r, Sahara, Simone, baby Sunny, Sunny, Anaiya, sister in law Tina and her kids Maiya and Rihanna. All have Mollah as second name. Image: Mhairi Edwards/DC Thomson

“I understand it now because I am the same, trying to keep the balance with the kids. Dad gave us everything we needed, and now I see how hard he worked for us.”

And though he isn’t here to say it himself, Sunny knows Nurul would be proud.

“We have done what he wanted to do,” he said.

“It’s the dream, to have the whole family involved in the business that he created. This is our future and it is going to carry this whole family forwards.

“We’ve got a happiness love in our house and I think that’s all my dad would want. Even though he’s not here, it feels like he is. He is following us on this journey.”