Cynthia, a story of dhall puris in Italy

A second Mauritian, passionate about cooking in Milan… After Shirley Cotte and her incredible napolitanes (read here interview here), I met Cynthia Sandean. Not quite by chance, Shirley and Cynthia are good friends who met by chance in a building hall in Milan. That’s amazing. Cynthia is 29 years old. Her passion is on the salty side: dhall puris. Let’s get to know her.

Cynthia, you live in Milan. How did you get there? Were you born in Italy or Mauritius?

I arrived in Italy in September 2017. After my civil marriage I came here, working hard for a year to raise money for my church wedding in Mauritius. I did small jobs, babysitting, with the advantage of speaking English and French, and cleaning lady too. I had to work.

So, are you married to an Italian? Why Italy?

Oh no, my husband is Mauritian. He has been living in Milan for 10 years already, that’s why. So, after my higher education, I started to work in Mauritius, at Mauvillac as a cashier and multi-skilled secretary. After attending courses, I applied to the Darné clinic where I worked for almost 5 years in the radiology department where I learnt a lot about medicine, X-rays, preventions and even patience… That’s a long way from the dhall puris, isn’t it?

And the dhall puris, how did that happen?

Back in Italy, my son was born a year after the wedding. So being at home, with the COVID etc, not being able to go to work, I started making dhall puris, chanapuris, samoussas etc, for friends, birthdays. The feedback I got was very encouraging and pushed me to continue and improve. It was good timing, I have always loved to cook. Especially my mum’s dishes, who always gives me little tips. Even for my much-loved samoussas, it’s Mum’s recipe.

So, it was your mum who taught you to make such good dhall puris?

My mum had given me some good advice but she herself didn’t necessarily take the time to perfect it. I discovered that dhall puris are like a gift that I had without knowing it. For me, it has always been a pleasure, since Maurice. To eat them first of all. I tried many times to make it before I finally got the hang of it, to finally get that muslin effect on the dhall puris. It wasn’t easy. A lot of hard work, love and perseverance. Many people think it’s easy to do. But to make it, you need a lot of patience…

You are a good friend of Shirley Cotte. How did you meet her?
We met about 2 years ago, in 2019. Shirley was working temporarily in the building where I was also working. We soon realised that we were both Mauritian 🤗. As soon as I told her that I was so hungry for a good napolitaine, pregnant woman envy, she surprised me, in front of my house, with a dozen napolitaines. And since then, we’ve never left each other. It also suits me 🤣 because Shirley’s napolitanes are my favourite. The best I’ve ever had.

Unbelievable, what a great meeting! But are there many Mauritians in Milan?
Yes, there are. There are like everywhere. You often come across them.

You cook dhall puris, what else?

At the moment, I make dhall puris, samoussas and chana puris. But otherwise at home I cook everything. I love Chinese food, as well as Indian food. My husband is a Telugu, so I take advantage of festive times to make typical Telugu dishes. I also make briani and Tamil dishes, curries and cangis. Finally, as long as I can make new dishes, it is always a pleasure. I love to cook. In fact, that’s what Mauritian culture is all about, isn’t it? A beautiful mix… to me, that’s the beauty of our Mauritian culture.

Where do you find the ingredients for all this?

My ingredients, I find them easily in Indian grocery shops. There are some in Milan.

Have you thought about doing a Mauritian recipe blog?

For the blog maybe later. I especially dream of having a workshop to make my dhall puris and Mauritian recipes but it’s not obvious at the moment.


You mean because of COVID? How is the situation in Italy? Are we going to go back to the way things were before?

In Italy, people are fed up with confinement, like everywhere else, although it is the best solution to stop the spread of the virus. But at the beginning of May, we can see that little by little everyone is trying to get back into the swing of things. All the piazzas had become deserted. But with the arrival of spring and also the removal of the red zone, there is joy on the faces of the children who are running around and we hope that everything will get better.

Thank you, Cynthia. I had the chance to taste some dhall puris and they are indeed delicious and melting. They arrived unopened and vacuum-packed and we enjoyed them for several meals. You have a real talent and I wish you good luck in your future projects and in the affirmation of Mauritian culture in Italy.


Another surprise came along with the napolitaines from Shirley Cotte for Kristel’s birthday. This! Amazingly smooth melt-in-the-mouth dhall puri, perfectly packed by pairs to arrive as fresh as possible. We had very nice mauritian meals with those. Thank you Cynthia!

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