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Home » Jakarta » Betawi’s typical Roti Buaya: the Crocodile Bread at weddings

Betawi’s typical Roti Buaya: the Crocodile Bread at weddings

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A wedding party of the Betawi, - the indigenous ethnic group of Jakarta, - is not complete without the Roti Buaya or the Crocodile bread. Roti Buaya is a required gift that the bridegroom must bring to his bride as a token of eternal fidelity.


Roti buaya is simply a sweet bread made in the form of a crocodile, which can be a meter or half a meter long, that forms an important part of the collection of gifts handed by the bridegroom and family to the bride. According to tradition, these should include the Sirih Nanas Lamaran (pineapple with betel leaves), a plate of the bride’s favorite food, the dowry, the crocodile bread, a box filled with vegetables, some fruits placed in a receptacle in the shape of a boat, the wedding cake, and other gifts that may include jewelry, clothes, shoes, a handbag, and cosmetics.


These gifts are carried ceremoniously in a colorful procession by members of the bridegroom’s relatives wearing bright traditional costumes to the house of the bride where the wedding vows are to take place. The bridegroom himself, leading the bridal procession, preceded by boys carrying colourful decorations, will carry a pair of crocodile bread, one large, and one small crocodile laid on top of the larger, where the smaller is meant to be the female. This denotes that the bridegroom promises to remain faithful to his wife even until they grow old together, have children and grandchildren.


Originally made from cassava, but now made from wheat flour, the crocodile symbolises eternal faithfulness, since it is believed that crocodiles remain faithful to one mate all their life. While the bread itself symbolises economic prosperity. The Betawi, therefore, believe that the crocodile bread will not only bring good fortune and a better future for the newlyweds, but carry the hope and expectation that the pair will remain faithful to one another throughout their whole lives. This tradition still persists until today.


The crocodile bread is usually made to order, and comes in two measurements, one is 1 meter and the other is half a meter long, appropriately decorated and can be filled with either chocolate or cheese.


When you live in Jakarta, you will no doubt have come across a Betawi wedding, that are often held in front of the bride’s house, where marquees often take up part of the road. Everyone in the neighbourhood is invited. There is traditional music like the tanjidor, but nowadays also plenty of modern music that must include the popular dangdut, the typical Indonesian-Indian fusion music. The wedding party will last deep into the night, when a large screen is pitched on a field for all to enjoy a film performance. This is known as layar tancap, meaning the pitched screen. Traditionally, the main food presented to the guests is comprised of bananas that are hung in tranches along the marquee, for anyone to pluck, peanuts and tea.

Photo courtesy of Gunawan Kartapranata. 

(Source: Ensiklopedi Jakarta, www.jakarta.go.id)

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