We have an early taste of Houston’s global-barbecue emporium.

International Smoke from bestselling cookbook author and lifestyle expert Ayesha Curry and celebrity chef Michael Mina is set to debut in Houston’s CITYCENTRE district this month. The restaurant, which began as a pop-up in 2016, celebrates food as the heart of community. It also allows Mina and Curry to explore their dedication to fire, grilling, and smoke through a global lens representative of Houston’s cultural and ethnic makeup.

Mina, who recently opened Mi Almita Cantina in Honolulu with friend and Houston-based James Beard Award-wining chef Hugo Ortego, calls Houston a city of “incredible diversity, fearless cross-pollination of cuisines,” with a love of dining out, making it the ideal location for a concept like International Smoke.

The 6,000-square-foot restaurant and bar will offer a comfortably stylish setting featuring two expansive terraces overlooking CITYCENTRE’s central green space.

Inspired by the duo’s individual travels and ethnic backgrounds, the menu highlights broad flavors born from varying grilling techniques and plus premium ingredients. Spearheading International Smoke’s kitchen will be executive chef E.J. Miller. Formerly of Houston’s Riel, Miller not only brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of the local culinary scene to the kitchen, but also a focus on regional sourcing with meaty partners, including 44 Farms, Blackhill Farms, and Dewberry Hill Farms as well an emphasis on fresh, seasonal produce from Gundermann Acres, Ole Dad Farms, and Texas Black Gold, among others.

Signatures dishes include Double Duck Wings with jerk spice, sticky mango, and green seasoning; Lemongrass Pork Chop with stir-fried clams, glass noodles, soy, and lime; Binchotan-Grilled Lobster with Japanese curry-spiced yaki udon; and Indian Fish Fry with spice-crusted snapper, turmeric pickles, and raita.

Smoked St. Louis-style pork ribs offer three tastes to savor: American barbecue, Mexican adobada, and Korean gochujang. There are also table-side preparations, including Wagyu Shaking Beef with banh mi pickles, lettuce wraps, and fried peanuts; Kalua Instant Bacon with steamed buns, Hawaiian teriyaki, and pineapple salsa; and Argentine Ribeye, showcasing hay-smoked beef, mushrooms, potatoes, and chimichurri.

Suffice it to say, International Smoke will give Houston a world of flavor.

International Smoke Korean-Style Barbecue Ribs

(Serves 4)

This is the International Smoke take on a Korean-style barbecue pork rib. We dry marinate the ribs for 12 hours. The marinade produces a great sticky bark when the ribs are cooked.  To prepare this recipe successfully, you will need to budget time to cook on two separate days in order to maximize flavor with the overnight marinating process.

Korean-Style Dry Rib Rub

2 tablespoons gochugaru (Korean chili flake)
½ tablespoon toasted white sesame seed, ground in blender
½ cup dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons kosher salt
1½ tablespoons garlic powder
1½ tablespoons onion powder

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk to completely combine. Label properly, and store.

Korean-Style Wet Rib Glaze

3 tablespoons garlic cloves, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 cups fresh scallions, peeled, coarsely chopped
1 1/16 cups ginger, peeled, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons peanut or grapeseed oil
½ cup gochujang chili paste
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds

Pulse scallions, garlic, and ginger in a food processor until finely chopped. Reserve.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a medium saucepan over medium. Add scallions, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring often, until softened, and starting to stick to bottom of pan, about 4 minutes. Add gochujang, white sugar, brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, and sesame seeds and stir until smooth. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often to prevent scorching, until thick, 5 – 10 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and season with salt. Transfer mixture to a food processor or blender and blend until fully incorporated and smooth. Transfer to heat safe storage container. Reserve.

Baby Back Ribs

2 racks fresh baby back pork ribs (about 2 pounds each), trimmed, thoroughly patted dry
Wet rib glaze
Dry rib rub
¼ cup scallion slices
1 tablespoon Hawaiian red salt
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds

Rub ribs with the reserved wet rib glaze and dust with Korean rib rub spice mix. Let stand on a cooling rack on sheet pans, uncovered on the top shelf of the refrigerator until the next day.

The following day, to cook your ribs to tenderness, you'll need to use indirect heat on your grill. If you’re using a charcoal grill, heat your chimney of coals and then empty them all onto one side; if you’re using a gas grill, turn up the burner on only one side. You’ll be cooking on the opposite side, over indirect heat — low and slow. The goal is for the closed grill to maintain a temperature of 250 degrees. Then forget about them for 3 – 4 hours.

Remove from the smoker and baste with part of the Korean grilling wet glaze. Rest for 10 – 12 minutes. Portion as needed.

To serve, cut into portions and re-brush with reserved Korean grilling wet glaze. To garnish, sprinkle red salt, sesame seeds, and scallions on the ribs prior to plating.

All images courtesy International Smoke.

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