In a medium bowl, combine turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon sugar; add cauliflower and toss until evenly coated. Set aside.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, add cauliflower and stir-fry 4 to 6 minutes, until it begins to brown in spots; remove with slotted spoon to baking sheet lined with paper towels.
Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add nigella seeds, bay leaves, and remaining whole chilies. Stir-fry 15 seconds, then add poppy seed paste. Stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, until fragrant; stir in cauliflower and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each salt and sugar until cauliflower is coated.
Add 2/3 cup water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 6 minutes, stirring once or twice, until cauliflower is just tender and sauce is absorbed.
Note: White poppy seeds and nigella seeds (also known as kalonji or black onion seeds) are available at www.kalustyans.com.