Before joining the cast of the Real Housewives of New York, model Ubah Hassan graced the pages of Allure and Vogue Italia and appeared in campaigns for Oscar de la Renta, Ralph Lauren, and Betsey Johnson. During her time in the fashion industry, she got tired of eating a bland diet she describes as “mostly steamed fish and vegetables,” so she decided to figure out a way to spice things up. Thus, her hot sauce company Ubah Hot was born. “It was like I’m so frustrated, I just can’t eat plain fish and vegetables,” she says. “So I created something that would help me eat healthy food without losing the taste.”
Born in Somalia, Hassan looked to the spicy sauces prepared by members of her family to add some flavor to her dull dinners. In 2017, she started experimenting, blending chiles with spices and bottling the sauce in her apartment. After a lengthy period of experimentation, Hassan ended up with three different sauces in the Ubah Hot line, each named for a different gemstone: Ruby (made with Fresno peppers), Tanzanite (habanero), and Emerald (serrano). She reached out to the owner of Brooklyn hot sauce boutique Heatonist to see if, as she says, the sauces were any good. He told her she had a hit on her hands, and Hassan began production of Ubah Hot. In 2021, the sauces landed a coveted spot on Oprah Winfrey’s list of favorite things, and they sold out completely.
Now, the easiest place to find Ubah Hot is at New York City pizzeria Serafina, where Hassan teamed up with owners Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato to develop her own pie called — what else? — the Ubah Hot pizza. “I am obsessed with pizza. If I could eat pizza every single day with a side of croissant, that’s what I would do.”
Halfway through the new RHONY season, Hassan has emerged as a breakout star, and so has her hot sauce — two months after the first episode aired, Ubah Hot is sold out. Eater sat down to talk with Hassan about the family influences in the brand, her favorite things to cook, and which one of her RHONY castmates is the spiciest.
How did you end up in the business of making hot sauce?
I didn’t plan to end up in the hot sauce business. I created something to help me be able to eat healthy food. I started with making a fresh hot sauce, but that would only last a couple of days, so I tried a sauteed sauce, which would last longer. I started giving it to my neighbors — people from all over, from Australia to Russia to Mexico to Texas, lived in that apartment building — and they really loved it.
When I started making friends in New York, and going to all these dinner parties, I didn’t want to show up empty-handed, but I didn’t have money to buy wine or caviar. So I would bring the hot sauce in a jar, and fortunately everybody loved it.
Eater: How would you describe the flavor profiles of the three Ubah Hot sauces?
Ubah Hassan: They are all different because they all have different peppers — there’s Fresno, habanero, and serrano. Fresno is very mild and a little sweeter, and the habanero has this beautiful aroma. I think habanero is like the oud of vegetables. It just has the most beautiful smell. And then you have the serrano, which is like jalapeno but a little more peppery. The green sauce has a little more garlic and cilantro, while the other two are a little brighter and citric. They’re like cousins, they have different textures and different tastes, but they all work together very well.
Did your family’s recipes influence these sauces?
Yes, these are the hot sauces that my family makes. We used to do a very fresh version of the green one. The yellow sauce was a cooked sauce, and the red one is the one that we use as the base for all of our pasta dishes, like the lasagna my family loves. The flavors of East Africa are a huge influence, there’s also some Arab and Indian influence. And then we also have Italian influence because Somalia was colonized by Italy. My father used all the spices, both for aroma and heat, and a lot of garlic and onion. So yeah, it definitely is a product of where I’m from.
What’s your favorite thing to put Ubah Hot on?
I put it over everything, this sauce is just me in a bottle. Even a doughnut, I just put it on there and go with it. Don’t put it on cereal; that didn’t work. I like to make soup with frozen vegetables, and I’ll use the Ubah Hot as, like, a base to make a broth. I’ll take spoonfuls of it and mix it with water and it becomes spicy soup instantly. If I want it really spicy, I’ll mix all three, but if I don’t want it too spicy, I’ll just add the red and green. But my favorite meal, my last meal or the thing I want to eat every single day, is just rice and beans with the yellow sauce.
Do you think you’re the best cook in the cast of the Real Housewives of New York?
By far, by far. Maybe they can bake better than me. Baking? I can’t. Baking is for smart people because you’ve got to measure shit. But when it comes to cooking, none of them can touch me.
Out of all your RHONY castmates, which one would you say is the spiciest?
Spiciest? I think I will say Jessel [Taank]. And not because of her personality, but because that girl likes spicy everything.
What about the mildest? Who’s the least spicy housewife?
I don’t think she’s mild, but I guess I would have to say Jenna [Lyons]. She doesn’t sweat the small stuff, and she’s very kind and sweet. Not in a bad way, like blah, she’s mild. You can fight with Jenna and yell at her and she’s just like “okay, that’s how you see it.” She’s very much the voice of reason.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.