Put the lentils in a heavy pot with 2 1/2 cups water and the tumeric. Stir and bring to a simmer. (Do not let it boil over.) Cover, leaving the lid just very slightly ajar, turn the heat to low, and simmer for 40 minutes, or until tender. Stir a few times during the cooking. Add the salt and mix. Leave covered over very low heat. Heat the oil in a small frying pan over fairly high heat. When hot, add the asaffetida, then, a second later, the cumin seeds. Let the cumin seeds sizzle for a few seconds. Add the chilies. As soon as they turn dark red, this takes just a few seconds, lift up the lid of the lentil pot and pour in the contents of the frying pan, oil as well as the spices. Cover the pot to immediately trap the aromas. Serve warm.
Recipe courtesy of Gourmet Magazine