Canned pāua, Haliotis iris, is a premium New Zealand product that is exported to Asia. The objective of this research was to investigate the effects of ultrasound treatments on pāua texture, microstructure and in vitro protein digestibility. Whole pāua meat was ultrasound-treated (20 kHz, 464 ± 9 W) for 5 min in water (with or without subsequent soaking in water at 4 °C for 24 h) or ultrasound-treated in 1% actinidin enzyme solution. Post-treatment cooking of canned pāua was done in a water retort at 116 °C for 30 min. All ultrasound-treated cooked pāua yielded lower slice shear force values (SSFV) than untreated canned and cooked samples. The lowest SSFV was attained when ultrasound treatment in water was followed by soaking at 4 °C for 24 h. The increased tenderness of ultrasound-treated pāua could be linked to disintegration of myofibers and formation of gaps between myofibers, as observed through histological analysis and transmission electron microscopy. Collagenous fragmentation was also observed, particularly in pāua ultrasonicated in enzyme solution. Raw pāua was found to be more digestible in terms of free amino N released during in vitro digestion than all cooked samples. However, cooked ultrasound pre-treated pāua was more digestible than the control cooked sample.
Keywords: Haliotis iris; abalone; actinidin; in vitro protein digestibility; pāua; texture; ultrasound.