Cut cabbage into quarters, and core out the stem from each quarter. Slice it into ¼ inch-thick shreds. Heat the fat over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pan. When it is hot, add cumin. Cook till the cumin turns dark brown (just 10 to 15 seconds), add the optional asafetida, and immediately add the cabbage. Sprinkle turmeric over the cabbage, and sauté, turning and tossing rapidly until the cabbage wilts, about 5 minutes.
Add ginger, tomato, and chilies or red pepper, and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Add salt and one cup of water. Reduce heat to medium- low and cook, covered, until tender, about 20 minutes. Check and stir often while cooking to prevent burning. Fold in chopped coriander, check for salt, and serve.