Gretchen and others,
As I recall, kombu is the sea weed that Japanese chefs would add to food
to enhance its flavor. Later, U.S. food chemists isolated MSG in the
kombu as the factor that may the food tast good. So, MSG is in the
kombu; it is naturally occuring-- which is why it can be labled "natural
flavors" on food ingredients listings. I don't know how much MSG is in
how much kombu, but enough to make a taste difference.
Of note, MSG entered Western cooking after WWII. U.S. soldiers noticed
that captured Japanese canned rations tasted much better than theirs.
The Military contracted major food producers in the U.S. to find out why
and improove the U.S. rations. These were big companies, but I don't
source in front of me so I won't list names. They isolated the kombu and
the MSG as major factors.
LA: the only city where you have to dust OUTSIDE.