A Boston roll is an Americanized version of a Japanese sushi roll. Instead of traditional raw seafood, this sushi recipe pairs poached shrimp with sushi rice and Japanese cucumbers. This recipe is an adaptation of the California roll, in which imitation crabmeat, or surimi, is the primary seafood ingredient. The shrimp and rice combination is the foundation of a sushi recipe commonly made only in sushi restaurants on the eastern U.S. coast.
A classic example of fusion cuisine, the Boston roll has poached shrimp replacing the more traditional raw fish found in Japanese sushi. Fusion cuisine lets sushi chefs modify traditional recipes to make them more appealing to sushi initiates and American food culture, which has fewer instances of recipes using raw fish and meats. A Boston roll retains its Japanese roots by keeping the standard nori seaweed wrapper as the base of the roll. The salty nori wrapper imparts authentic flavor to the American ingredients in this version of sushi. Recipes for this style of sushi often use up to five sheets of nori.
Depending on availability, one finds Japanese or American cucumbers and avocados in a Boston roll. The cucumbers generally are thinly sliced before the chef adds them to the sushi ingredients. Avocados are not a traditional sushi ingredient, but food historians believe the use of avocados is an adaptation based on ingredients common to the California roll.
Japanese seasonings for a Boston roll maintain the dish's Asian roots. Wasabi, a fiery paste similar to horseradish, may be included in the roll or served alongside. Soy sauce, a traditional Asian condiment, often appears in recipes for these rolls. Additional spicy sauces and sesame seeds that chefs incorporate into the roll are drawn from Asian cuisine or are elements that fit the fusion approach for this type of sushi.
When compared to traditional sushi, the Boston roll offers an alternative for diners who have concerns about sustainable seafood choices. National and international organizations that provide information and education about seafood sustainability issues consider shrimp a good alternative to the less sustainably farmed and fished species often used in traditional sushi, such as tuna, snapper and sole. Eating a Boston roll allows one to avoid contributing to overfishing of endangered fish species that traditionally have played a starring role in sushi. The shrimp in this version of sushi is cooked, so one also can be less concerned about the potential for illness stemming from consuming raw seafood.