In Singapore, hawker food is fundamental to the country’s culinary culture. And yet, as K.F. Seetoh wries in Huffington Post, there is no framework of “institutional continuity” to preserve the beloved traditions.

Singaporeans have long had a deep appreciation for street food—something we are learning to value more in the United States. As a result of their history, proprietors of famous stalls can maintain a comfortable living from selling not just grub, but also their expertise. Recipes for popular dishes have been reported to fetch as much as $1.2 million. But needless to say, million dollar recipe sales are not common, and many hawkers struggle to get by. Seetoh sees the disintegration of hawker culture as a grave problem:

Every old master who is calling it quits is like a few million living cells dying our body without regeneration. I personally know of some street food hawkers and entrepreneurs who net a cool $80,000 monthly from their small and humble two-outlet operations. The taxman regularly hauls in overly successful hawkers who under-declare tax payments, and it’s always front page news fodder here.

The Singaporean government has announced the creation of 10 more new hawker centres, and there has been discussion of opening a street food academy to foster new hawkers. But Seetoh fears that the newcomers won’t have the pedigree of the O.G.s, and that asking the old-timers to share their heirloom recipes would be as absurd as “asking Warren Buffet for his back account number and pin code just because the world feels there is a need to help the poor.”

[via HuffPost Travel]