Do not peel the plantains. Cut into 3 roughly equal size pieces.
Boil, in the skin, for 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from heat, drain, and set aside to cool.
When the plantain pieces have cooled enough to handle, skin and grate coarsely.
Make the popu (tempering spices). Measure all the popu ingredients (urad, chana, cumin seed, mustard, and curry leaves) separately and set aside in small containers, near to hand, so they will be ready to add immediately.
Put turmeric and asafoetida in a small container near to hand.
Put chopped chilis and ginger paste in a small bowl and set near to hand as well.
Heat the ghee or oil. When it's starting to get hot, add the dal (if you choose to use it).
Let the dal fry for about a minute, then add mustard seeds.
When the mustard seeds start to pop, quickly add the curry leaves. If mustard seeds are not popping, raise the heat until they do.
Lower heat and immediately add ginger and chopped chilis and stir well. Remove from heat if necessary to keep popu from burning.
Add turmeric and asafoetida and stir well.
Add the grated plantain and salt.
Stir well. Cover and cook for 5 to 10 minutes over a low to medium heat, until the plantain is done. Plantain will remain firm but not crunchy when it's done.