Blok M, a vibrant hub in South Jakarta, has always held a magnetic allure for both locals and tourists alike. Its diverse offerings range from shopping destinations to relaxing spots and of course, an array of tantalizing culinary experiences. Amid these treasures, my favorite stop has consistently been M Bloc Space – a creative haven that draws young individuals together in the heart of South Jakarta. While my visits here have been countless, there remain undiscovered gems within.
On this particular occasion, I was drawn to a unique establishment that beckoned with a distinctive warning sign at the entrance: “Beware, Crocodiles Inside.” The bold black and yellow signage piqued my curiosity, leading me to ponder, ‘Could there be crocodiles in a place like this?’ Driven by my inquisitiveness, I ventured inside.
After traversing a dimly lit corridor, I was greeted by a bakery adorned in red and white hues, complete with a charming little garden at its entrance. A red sign that read ‘Cap Roti Buaya’ was prominently displayed – the very focus of my visit. My initial impression was one of a serene ambiance, the canopy of red and various flora decorating the space with natural beauty.
So, what’s the connection to crocodiles here? Well, it turns out that the reference is to a crocodile-shaped bread, commonly known as Roti Buaya. For those unfamiliar with this delicacy, Roti Buaya is a traditional Indonesian bread closely associated with Betawi cuisine. Its history can be traced back to European customs of presenting flowers to loved ones. Betawi locals embraced this tradition by offering Roti Buaya as a token of devotion. Crafted in the shape of a crocodile, a creature renowned for its loyalty, this bread has become an iconic feature at Betawi weddings.
This classic bread, stretching around 1 meter in length, boasts a dense texture and is typically served without fillings. I was first introduced to Roti Buaya at a relative’s Betawi wedding. Its substantial size easily caters to 10-12 people, making it a delicacy rarely encountered beyond Betawi wedding festivities.
Lunchtime beckoned, and my appetite led me to promptly order a selection from the menu. Among the offerings, I was drawn to the ‘Es Krim Buaya’ (Crocodile Ice Cream) and ‘Buaya Panggang’ (Grilled Crocodile). As for a refreshing beverage, I was recommended the intriguing ‘Air Mata Buaya’ (Crocodile Tears).
Iwan, the baker behind Cap Roti Buaya. He shared the inspiring genesis of the bakery – a desire to reimagine the traditional Roti Buaya, which was often associated with large ceremonial bread used in Betawi weddings. Now, it’s transformed into smaller, daily-enjoyable portions.
Iwan revealed that the concept of Roti Buaya was inspired by an Indonesian song, “Piknik 73,” by the band Naif, where the term “Roti Buaya” was used. This connection wasn’t coincidental, given that the bakery’s owner is none other than David Bayu, the former vocalist of Naif. Furthermore, being an avid enthusiast of Roti Buaya, David Bayu encountered difficulties in finding this delicacy. This challenge sparked a creative idea within him and his team—to craft a unique solution by reinventing Roti Buaya into a smaller version, allowing people to relish it daily. The first branch opened in Bandung, and its popularity led to expansions into Jakarta.
The symbolism of Roti Buaya in Bandung is also noteworthy. Beyond its Betawi origins, it’s closely tied to Bandung’s culture, often served during celebrations like circumcision ceremonies as a symbol of masculinity. However, the bakery has transformed this symbolism into a universal delight, meant to be savored anytime, anywhere.
“The goal was to make Roti Buaya an everyday treat for everyone, not just for special occasions. Some people even order it for birthdays or as gifts for friends – we’ve discovered its versatile charm,” Iwan explained.
Iwan extended an invitation to witness the baking process firsthand, and the distinct aroma of the baking process was impossible to ignore. He detailed that crafting a large Roti Buaya takes about 3 hours, while the smaller ones require 4 hours.
With our conversation concluded, my freshly baked treats were ready for consumption. I started with the ‘Es Krim Buaya,’ the mini crocodile-shaped bread filled with sweet milk ice cream, which provided a delightful refreshment. Contrary to my expectations, the bread’s texture was neither dense nor chewy. The bread crust offered a satisfying crunch, revealing a soft crumb that beautifully complemented the creamy ice cream, resulting in a harmonious dance of flavors and textures.
Next up was the ‘Buaya Panggang Garlic Butter’ – a larger-sized Roti Buaya perfect for sharing among 3-5 people. While garlic butter is often associated with European cuisine, it uniquely embraced the Roti Buaya here. The soft bread was layered with garlic butter both inside and out, creating a delightful fusion of flavors. This combination offered a fresh and delectable twist on the garlic butter bread.
Aside from all the delicacies I had today, Cap Roti Buata also offers large-sized Roti Buaya, ranging from 0.5 to 1 meter, traditionally served at weddings or ‘khitanan’ celebrations. You can even choose the bread’s color – red, green, or original – according to your preference. Beyond colors, various flavors such as Chocolate, Tiramisu, Green Tea, Avocado, and more are available. To order these substantial breads, a prior reservation is essential.
But of course, no culinary journey is complete without a complimentary beverage. The intriguing ‘Air Mata Buaya’ caught my attention and was also recommended by the staff. A unique concoction of blue soda and orange juice at its base, a quick shake to combine the two elements results in a refreshing drink perfect for Jakarta’s scorching heat
Cap Roti Buaya
M Bloc – Panglima Polim St No.37, RT.1/RW.1, Melawai, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta City, Jakarta 12160