As promised to my Facebook friends, here is my review of confinement food from different caterers, based on suggestions given to me. [For non-Asians wondering what on earth ‘confinement’ means in this context, here’s more info on what we mums go through soon after giving birth. I don’t entirely believe in all the practices for scientific reasons, but it keeps the peace…]
Chilli Padi / Chilli Api
For my first confinement in late 2012, I had chosen Chilli Padi, the caterer known for its tasty Peranakan food, based on a recommendation from my friend Karen.
Chilli Padi’s confinement food is kept warm in thermos containers, which they collect when they make their next delivery. Presentation and taste-wise, it was good:
[Note: Photos were taken in 2012]
Just that after a while, I started to feel ‘jelat’ (jaded). Don’t get me wrong – I love Chinese herbal soups – but try having the same type of food 28 days in a row!
They once made a late delivery and I was starving, although for the other 27 days things were more or less on schedule. Administratively, I recalled it was a bit troublesome having to mail them a cheque, although they responded well to phone calls. In short, I felt they were still a bit ‘old school’ in terms of transacting with customers. I would have chosen them again for my second confinement, but given that their menu seemed to be the same as before, I was game to try something new…
I read about Richfood’s confinement catering and it was also recommended by another friend, Chew Hwee, who found the food tasty and the proportions generous enough to share with her husband. Their trial lunch was $29, payable by internet banking, although it was troublesome having to show them a screen shot to prove that payment had been made, as we had to blot out our bank balance first.
Apart from that, they were the quickest to reply. The guy in charge, Nigel, seems to be perpetually checking his emails. The trial lunch was duly delivered and the food was tasty enough, by confinement standards.
All food is delivered in disposable plastic containers, with a time stamp indicating when the food was cooked and when it has to be consumed.
Natal Essentials were pretty good at marketing themselves – to the extent that my aunt (who has three kids in their 20s and obviously is not in need of confinement food herself) heard about them. Their trial lunch was slightly more expensive, at $32, and so was their full menu – although small price differences weren’t the main concern for me. The bigger question was, is the food ‘sedap‘?
The food was tasty enough – similar to Richfood:
What I did not like was their administrative policies and procedures.
i) They needed 2 working days to verify that I had made payment – although with internet banking, this could’ve been done immediately (which was what Richfood did). I tried informing them – by replying to their automated email – that my transaction had been completed, but realised that the reply-to email field was set to my own email address. They did not list their own email address in the automated email, so I had to search for it on their website.
ii) Also, I had asked for the trial lunch to be sent to me on 20 April but they replied, acknowledging delivery for 21 April instead with no reason given for the change. So I asked them again and they apologised for the error. Small point, but overall it added to my impression of them not being very sharp.
iii) Last, but not least, they require proof of your EDD (estimated delivery date) to qualify for their early bird discount as stated on their order form. They’re so serious about it that they even attached a sample doctor’s letter from Thomson Medical Centre, with the patient’s name blotted out!
They must have been cheated by customers who wanted to qualify for the early bird discount. But they shouldn’t presume all customers are like that, and make everyone go through so much trouble. I would have had to ask my doctor to issue such a letter – just for my confinement caterer?!
Given the extra red tape, plus a slightly higher price and no noticeable superiority in terms of taste or quality in their food, I decided to give this caterer a miss.
Lastly, another friend, Sherlyn, recommended YeYeah Delights. She had not tried it but met the account manager who came across as very enthusiastic.
However, they did not seem to offer a single-meal trial on their website. I wrote to them about it, and they confirmed that they could only send me three days’ worth of lunches and dinners! Now, who would want to eat confinement food for three days in a row when they haven’t even given birth yet?? And all that food would fill up my fridge.
I guess it’s their modus operandi and they cannot vary it – but as a prospective customer I would’ve had to shell out $108 for six trial meals, when other catering companies offered a single-meal trial for around $30.
So, it was a “no no” for YeYeah, simply for being a bit too rigid. They did however reply to me within the day, so at least their administrative staff were on the ball.
So, given my limited time and sample size, and given that the food quality and taste seemed pretty much the same (from 2012 to 2015), I decided to go with the caterer with the least hassle and hiccups – Richfood. So far, they have not disappointed in terms of quality or delivery. And yes, they gave me an early bird discount without having to view proof of my EDD!
These are two of the tastiest dishes so far:
I am quite sure this was cod fish or something similar in texture and oiliness. Ate it all up!
Delicious combination of herbs and chicken. Again, I finished it and even drank the gravy!
Final comments: decent food, but please make it easier for customers to order and pay
Confinement catering is still a niche business in Singapore. While I did not manage to review all available caterers, I approached the more popular ones recommended by friends. As the caterers’ foods were of comparable quality and similar prices, they had to distinguish themselves based on how well they served the customer.
Confinement food itself may not be very expensive but preparing and packaging it for just person and delivering it within the same time frame to different parts of Singapore for a month, certainly requires extra effort and that is probably why each meal costs $30 on average.
Overall, these caterers could improve their service by allowing the customer to make payments in easier ways, such as Paypal. This generation of expectant mothers is more IT-savvy and would appreciate not having to order by fax, mail cheques or submit screen shots of online banking transactions. This however is an issue with many of our local SMEs, not just caterers – they need to keep up with the times and be more customer-centric.
And, to re-iterate an earlier gripe: When a customer just wants a sample, don’t make her buy six of your products!
More photos will be added every now and then to my confinement food Flickr album, specially created for this occasion.