Housewife Rena Tan checking her steamboat order with delivery man Huang Yun Hai. Madam Tan would normally spend three days preparing for her family's steamboat reunion dinner, but plans to use a hot pot home delivery service this year to cut down on food wastage. (Photo: The Straits Times)

With less than a month to go before Chinese New Year, demand for steamboat delivery services is heating up.

At least five businesses here, including restaurants Hai Di Lao and The Soup Spoon, are offering home delivery of soup stock and prepared ingredients such as fresh vegetables, meat and seafood. Most companies also provide a pot and stove for a fee.

Steamboat, or food cooked communally in simmering broth, is commonly eaten in the lead-up to and during Chinese New Year, which falls on Jan 28 this year.

Mr Steamboat's orders have doubled to 80 for the festive season this year compared with last year, while The Steamboat Specialist has received 80 per cent more orders. The companies said orders came in as early as the first week of December.

Packages start at $88 at The Steamboat Specialist, $208 at Mr Steamboat, and $288 at Reunion Steamboat. These sets, which can be ordered online, can feed about five or six people.

Items can also be ordered a la carte. A 300g packet of pork belly at The Steamboat Specialist costs $6.50, while a 250g packet of US Kurobuta pork belly costs $20 at Reunion Steamboat.

At FairPrice's online store, 500g of frozen pork belly sells for $5.10.

The Steamboat Specialist sells 200g of crab sticks at $4, while FairPrice sells a 250g packet of its house brand crab sticks at $1.85.

Consumers who opt for the packages said the delivery services mean not having to jostle with crowds in markets or fight for a table at restaurants.

The Soup Spoon's two steamboat sets, costing $98 and $188, go on sale on Jan 10. The sets, which feed about 12 people, include collagen and kimchi soup stocks, homemade dishes and condiments.

"We want to offer customers clean eating options even during festivities," said The Soup Spoon founder Anna Lim, adding that its soup stocks do not contain artificial flavouring or preservatives.

At Chinese hot pot restaurant Hai Di Lao, which first started offering hot pot delivery services two years ago, a two-person set costs $98. But it is not making deliveries on the eve or the first day of Chinese New Year, as its outlets will be closed.

Convenience is not the only perk. Being able to order a specific portion means customers do not have to worry about buying too much food, said a spokesman for Reunion Steamboat.

"For example, scallops are usually sold in 1kg packs, so you will have to buy a whole pack whether you can finish it or not."

Housewife Rena Tan, 47, ordered a $168 set for 10 people from The Steamboat Specialist last week. It included two packs of scallops and two boxes of prawns. She plans to order another set for the second day of Chinese New Year.

"I found the prices quite reasonable," said Madam Tan, who would otherwise spend about three days to prepare food for her family's reunion steamboat meal.

"Usually I can't estimate how much food is needed and I end up with a lot of wastage, so this is good for me."

Written by Melissa Lin for The Straits Times