Step 1Rinse the lentils 3 or 4 times. Soak the lentils in the water about 1 hour. Transfer the lentils and the water to a heavy-bottomed pot, cover and cook over low heat until the lentils come to a boil, about 30 to 35 minutes. Remove the lid, add the salt, and let the lentils simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes. By now, the lentils should have lost their original solid shape but should not have been reduced to a sticky mush. They should be somewhere between those two extremes, sticking together and soft to the touch.
Step 2Meanwhile, heat the ghee or oil in a small, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. When the ghee is hot, but not smoky, add the cumin seeds, onion and asafetida. Cover the pan and reduce the heat as much as possible. Let the mixture simmer until the onion turns a deep brown, 15 minutes. Add the ground chiles, stir once, and immediately remove the pan from the heat. Pour the mixture into the lentils and stir.