Behind Closed Doors: Hawa Hassan

Our love for condiments runs deep at CAP, and our friend, author and hot sauce entrepreneur Hawa Hassan sits at the top of our list for most favorite creator in the heat category. We tried her Basbaas Sauce, a traditional Somalian green sauce,  years ago at the CherryBombe Festival and have been ordering it in bulk ever since and now with the recent publication of her cookbook, In Bibi's Kitchen, a love letter to the power of a Grandmother's recipe, you can make it from the comfort of your own home. Read on to discover what she relies on to turn out her meals, how she thinks about cooking and what she's never without.

What is your food philosophy? 

My food philosophy is that food should make you feel good — and it shouldn’t be too fussy. 

What does cooking mean to you?

For me, cooking ultimately means community. It means nourishment. It means ultimate fulfillment. I feel my best self when I’m cooking for other people — it’s my love language. 

What is the first meal that you remember?

The very first meal that I remember eating as a little kid was lahoh, which are Somali pancakes, drizzled with ghee and brown sugar. 

What’s always in your fridge?

Awaze sauce, Kombucha, leafy greens and eggs. All things I rely on to keep me going.

What’s always in your pantry?

In my pantry, you will always find awaze sauce, berbere, and any spice that has touched the Indian Ocean, such as cumin, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon bark, etc. Go-to meal that you make for yourself more often than not?

I love roasting sweet potatoes and topping them with chickpeas, broccoli, cauliflower and a drizzle of awaze sauce. 

Who is inspiring you in the food world right now?

I’m inspired by people who are telling stories from their culture — people who are sharing their stories for the first time from a fresh, new perspective. I’m currently finding inspiration from folks like Yewande Komolafe, Osayi Endolyn and Illyana Maisonet

What do you want more people to know about your products? Besides that you make the BEST hot sauce out there?!

I would like for people to know that condiments from the continent are diverse, packed with flavor and can be paired with virtually everything.  

How do you end your day?

I often end my day with a glass of wine, a hot shower and a movie that will probably end up watching me! 

Piri Piri Sauce

It’s hard to go a day in Mozambique without eating something that’s touched with piri piri sauce (sometimes written as peri peri). The sauce, made with chiles, citrus, and oil, is Portuguese in origin, but peri is actually the Swahili word for “Chile” and refers to a specific type of Chile pepper that is said to have been first cultivated in Africa. While the sauce is traditionally made with piri piri chiles, all different kinds of hot peppers work well. We found that red Fresno chiles, readily available in the United States and not quite as hot as jalapeños, work really well. However, if you can only find jalapeños, just use three fresh ones in place of the red Fresno chiles. Use the sauce anywhere you would use sriracha. Try it on grilled chicken, toss it with raw cashews and then roast them for a great snack with cocktails, or stir it into a stew.


10 red Fresno chiles stemmed, seeded, and coarsely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons minced ginger

½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon granulated sugar, plus more as needed

1teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

In the jar of a blender, combine the chiles, garlic, ginger, lime juice, oil, sugar, and salt and puree until smooth. Season to taste with more salt or sugar if you’d like.Transfer to a jar and store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.


Reprinted with permission from In Bibi’s Kitchen by Hawa Hassan with Julia Turshen, copyright © 2020. Photographs by Khadija M. Farah & Jennifer May. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.

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