Monosodium glutamate (MSG) was developed from kombu in Japan last century - and umami seasoning made its way onto the tables of Japenese kitchens, via NPR. The seasoning got a bad rap because MSG was used to make lousy processed food taste like something: Umami. Some allege that it causes headaches, heart palpitations and nausea. And, for many, it's still synonomous with crappy Chinese fast food:
To understand the taste of umami, imagine a perfectly dressed Caesar salad, redolent of Parmesan cheese, minced anchovies and Worcestershire sauce; or slurping chicken soup; or biting into a slice of pepperoni-and-mushroom pizza. The savory taste of these foods, and the full, tongue-coating sensation they provide, is umami, via WSJ.
I see there are many secrets to Chinese cooking, and these days MSG isn’t one of them, via tP.But stirfries without bonita, kombu or fish sauce won't have the same umami-ness. Some other non-MSG sources include ketchup (originally derived from fermented fish), uni, and Duckfat's fries, via T&L.