Spicy Fish Curry with Poppy Seeds, Chickpeas, and Herbs

by | Feb 9, 2021

Growing up in Pakistan, I savored a wide variety of homemade curries. They were prepared in the traditional manner, spicy and rich, using layers of aromatic spices, herbs, sautéed vegetables, and meat, and served with boiled rice or roti.

Living in America, I still enjoy making various types of curries as they are extremely versatile and have enchanting flavors. Today in my meal preparation, I am offering a spicy fish curry recipe with poppy seeds, chickpeas, and herbs.

Poppy seeds are widely used in Pakistani cuisine. They are known as ‘khashkhash’ in Urdu. They taste slightly nutty and lend a rich texture. I sock the seeds in water. Then I blend in a mixer along with water to form a smooth paste. I then use the prepared paste in the recipe.

Similarly, I use roasted pale-yellow colored chickpea powder. It has an earthy smell and nutty taste. Before tossing them in, I roast the raw chickpeas on a low flame. Then I blend them in a mixer until it is in a powder form. This reduces the bitterness and provide a rich texture, and the end result is great.


  • 2 pounds fish (I use king whitefish steaks)
  • ½ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ginger & garlic paste
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon roasted chickpea powder
  • 1 teaspoon poppy seeds powder
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 2 black cardamom
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick, small size
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4-5 green chilis (bite-size)
  • ½ cup coriander leaves with stems, finely chopped
  • Lime wedges
  • Salt as needed


  • Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and add onions. Cook the onions till softened. Then add ginger & garlic paste and sauté for about a minute until fragrant. Quickly combine turmeric powder, bay leaves, caraway seeds, cumin seeds, black cardamom, cinnamon stick, Kashmiri chili powder, and salt, along with half a cup of water. Reduce to low-medium heat, stir, and cook until the oil separates.
  • Then combine tomato sauce, roasted chickpea powder, and poppy seed powder. Stir rapidly for 2-3 minutes. Add fish steak along with a tablespoon of water. Cover and cook each side until the fish is completely cooked and the curry has a thick consistency. (Tip: While cooking avoid over-stirring the fish.) 
  • Add green chili and coriander leaves, then cover and cook for 2 minutes. Sprinkle black pepper and adjust the salt. Serve the fish steak with lime wedges.