The phoenix eye fruit originated in South China. It grows in evergreen trees called Noble bottle trees. It is also known as Ping Po (apple old woman), Pin Po (frequently old woman) and Jiu Ceng Pi (nine layer skin).
The fruit looks like a bean pod with thick skin. It is as big as dove eggs, with 1 to 5 edible black seeds that taste like chestnuts after they’re peeled. When ripe, the pods wrapping the seeds will turn into a striking red colour and crack open like a phoenix opening its eyes. The ripening time is usually at the end of summer. Its seeds are commonly eaten plain, roasted, boiled with water and salt, or cooked with other ingredients.
In Chinese cuisine, ping-pong seeds can be cooked in frog stew for moistening and tonification effects. They can also be served as vegetarian soup by adding lotus, lily flowers, white fungus and yams. It ripens in the autumn. The outer surface is a dusty brown-black colour and covered with wrinkles. After removing a number of layers of skin the pale yellow kernel is revealed.
The kernel is of a powdery nature and can be eaten after it has been boiled. The flavour is delicately sweet and fragrant, and its nature is warm. The fruit can benefit the spleen, help stop diarrhoea and is reputed to kill internal parasites.
Shops selling traditional Chinese medicine sell this fruit dried and it can be used instead of fresh fruit. Simmer the dried fruit until cooked and discard the skin, it is then ready to eat.
Find your nearest Asian Store